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post-mortem: A PLAY IN EIGHT SCENES 





A Comedy in Three Acts 

Garden City, New York 
Doubleday, Doran and Company, Inc. 


printed at the Country Life Ptess, garden c i t y, n. y., u. s. a. 

COPYRIGHT, 1932, lyjj 







Applications regarding performing rights 
should be addressed to the author, care of 
the publishers. 



Otto's Studio in Paris. 


Scene I — Leo's Flat in London. {Eighteen months 


Scene II — The Same. {A few days later) 

Scene III — The Same. {The next morning) 


Scene I — Ernest's Apartment in New York. {Two 
years later) 

Scene II — The Same. {The next morning) 
Time: The Present 




Ernest Friedman 
Miss Hodge 
Mr. Btrbeck 
Henry Carver 
Helen Carver 
Grace Torrence 


ACT ONE: Scene I 

The scene is rather a shabby studio in Paris. There is 
a large window at the back looking out onto roof tops. 
Down stage j on the Left, there is a door leading onto the 
stairs f which in turn lead to the street. Up stage, on 
the Right f there is a door leading into a small kitchen. 
When the curtain rises, it is about ten o'clock on 
a spring morning, and the studio is empty. Gilda 
comes in from the kitchen carrying a coffee pot and a 
milk jug. She places them on a table just under the 
window, which is already laid with cups and plates, 
etc. Gilda is a good-looking woman of about thirty. 
Suddenly there is a knock on the door Left. She 
gives a quick glance towards it, and then goes swiftly 
and silently into the bedroom. In a moment she re- 
turns, closing the bedroom door carefully behind her. 
There is another knock on the door. She opens it, 
admitting Ernest Friedman. He is any age be- 
tween forty and fifty, rather precise in manner. He 
carries a large package, obviously a picture, done up in 
brown paper. 

Gilda: Ernest! 
Ernest: May I come in? 
Gilda: I'd no idea you were back. 
Ernest: I arrived last night. 

He comes in and puts down the package. 



Gilda: What's that? 

Ernest: Something exquisite, superb. 

Gilda: The Matisse? 

Ernest: Yes. 

Gilda: You got it, after all. 

Ernest: It's unbelievable. 

Gilda: Undo it quickly! 

Ernest: Otto must see it, too. 

Gilda: He's asleep. 

Ernest: Wake him up, then. 

Gilda: Not now, Ernest; he's had the most awful 
neuralgia all night. 

Ernest: Neuralgia? 

Gilda: Yes; all up one side of his face and down the 
other side. 

Ernest {undoing the package): Wake him up. One 
look at this will take away his neuralgia immediately. 

Gilda: No, really. He's only just dropped off. He's 
been in agony. I've dosed him with aspirin and given 
him a hot-water bottle here, and another one just 

Ernest {petulantly): I didn't know anyone had so 
many hot-water bottles. 

Gilda: I still have one more, in case it spreads. 

Ernest: It really is very irritating. I take the 
trouble to drag this large picture all the way round here 
and Otto chooses to have neuralgia. 

Gilda: He didn't choose to have it. He hated having 
it. His little face is all pinched and strained. 

Ernest: Otto's face is enormous. 

Gilda: Show me the picture, Ernest, and try not to be 


Ernest (grumbling) : It's an anticlimax. 
Gilda: Thank you, dear. 

Ernest: It's no use pretending to be hurt. You 
know you don't really care for anybody's pictures except 
Gilda: Do you want some coffee? 

Ernest: Why are there two cups, if Otto has neural- 

Gilda: Habit. There are always two cups. 

Ernest (propping up the picture, facing up stage): 

Gilda (scrutinizing it) : Yes, it's good. 

Ernest: Stand further back. 

Gilda (obliging) : Very good indeed. How much? 

Ernest: Eight hundred pounds. 

Gilda: Did you bargain? 

Ernest: No, that was their price. 

Gilda: I think you were right. Dealers or private 

Ernest: Dealers. 

Gilda: Here's your coffee. 

Ernest (taking the cup and still looking at the picture) : 
It's strangely unlike all the other work, isn't it? 

Gilda: What are you going to do with it? 

Ernest: Wait a little. 

Gilda: And then resell? 

Ernest: I expect so. 

Gilda: It will need a room to itself. 

Ernest: None of your decorating schemes. Hands 

Gilda: Don't you think I'm a good decorator? 
Ernest: Not particularly. 



Gilda: Darling Ernest! 

Ernest (back at the picture): Otto will go mad when 
he sees it. 

Gilda: You think Otto's good, don't you? You 
think he's all right? 

Ernest: Coming along. Coming along very nicely. 

Gilda: Better than that. Much better! 

Ernest: Lady Jaguar, defending her young! 

Gilda: Otto isn't my young. 

Ernest: Oh, yes, he is. Otto's everybody's young. 

Gilda: You think he's weak, don't you? 

Ernest: Certainly, I do. 

Gilda: And that I'm strong? 

Ernest: Strong as an ox! 

Gilda: You've called me a jaguar and an ox within 
the last two minutes. I wish you wouldn't be quite so 

Ernest: A temperamental ox, Gilda. Sometimes a 
hysterical ox; and, at the moment, an over- vehement ox J 
What's the matter with you this morning? 

Gilda: The matter with me? 

Ernest: There's a wild gleam in your eye. 

Gilda: There always is. It's one of my greatest 
charms! I'm surprised that you never noticed it 

Ernest: The years are creeping on me, Gilda. Per- 
haps my perceptions are getting dulled. 

Gilda (absently) : Perhaps they are. 

Ernest: If, in my dotage, I become a bore to you, you 
won't scruple to let me know, will you? 

Gilda: Don't be an idiot! 

Ernest (ruminatively) : Perhaps it was wrong of me to 




arrive unexpectedly; I should have written you a little 
note making an appointment. 

Gilda: Be a nice bluebottle and stop buzzing at me, 
will you? 

Ernest: You're a striking-looking woman — particu- 
larly when a little distrait. It's a pity Otto's paintings of 
you have always been so tranquil. He's missed some- 

Gilda: The next time he paints me, you must be here 
to lash me with gay witticisms. 

Ernest: Surely, in my r61e of bitter old family friend, 
I can demand a little confidence! You could tell me 
quite safely, you know, if anything's wrong. I might 
even be able to help, with a senile word or two. 

Gilda: Nothing is wrong, I tell you. 

Ernest: Nothing at all? 

Gilda: Shall I make you some toast? 

Ernest: No, thank you. 

Gilda: It's very hot today, isn't it? 

Ernest: Why not open the window? 

Gilda: I never thought of it. 

She opens the window almost violently. 
There! — I'm sick of this studio; it's squalid! I wish I 
were somewhere quite different. I wish I were some- 
body quite different. I wish I were a nice-minded British 
matron, with a husband, a cook, and a baby. I wish I 
believed in God and the Daily Mail and "Mother 

Ernest: I wish you'd tell me what's upsetting 

Gilda: Glands, I expect. Everything's glandular. 
I read a book about it the other day. Ernest, if you 



only realized what was going on inside you, you'd be 
bitterly offended! 

Ernest: I'm much more interested in what's going on 
inside you. 

Gilda: I'll tell you. All the hormones in my blood 
are working overtime. They're rushing madly in and 
out of my organs like messenger boys. 

Ernest: Why? 

Gilda: Perhaps it's a sort of presentiment. 

Ernest: Psychic. I see. Well, well, well! 

Gilda: Yes, I hear voices. I hear my own voice 
louder than any of the others, and it's beginning to bore 
me. Would you describe me as a super-egoist, Ernest? 

Ernest: Yes, dear. 

Gilda: Thinking of myself too much, and not enough 
of other people? 

Ernest: No. Thinking of other people too much 
through yourself. 

Gilda: How can anyone do otherwise? 

Ernest: Detachment of mind. 

Gilda: I haven't got that sort of mind. 

Ernest: It's an acquired attitude and difficult to 
achieve, but, believe me, well worth trying for. 

Gilda: Are you presenting yourself as a shining ex- 

Ernest: Not shining, my dear, just dully effulgent. 

Gilda: How should I start? Go away alone with my 

Ernest: With all my detachment I find it very 
difficult to regard your painful twistings and turnings 
with composure. 

Gilda: Why? 



Ernest (blandly) : Because I'm very fond of you. 

Gilda: Why? 

Ernest: I don't know. A tedious habit, I suppose. 
After all, I was very attached to your mother. 

Gilda: Yes, I know. Personally, I never cared for 
her very much. A bossy woman. 

Ernest: I don't think you should allude to the dead as 

Gilda: No reverence. That's my trouble. No rever- 

Ernest: I feel vaguely paternal towards you. 

Gilda: Yes, Ernest. 

Ernest: And your behaviour confuses me. 

Gilda: My painful twistings and turnings. 

Ernest: Exactly. 

Gilda: What did you mean by that? 

Ernest: Will you explain one thing to me really satis- 

Gilda: What? 

Ernest: Why don't you marry Otto? 

Gilda: It's very funny that underneath all your 
worldly wisdom you're nothing but a respectable little 
old woman in a jet bonnet. 

Ernest: You don't like being disapproved of, do you? 

Gilda: Does anybody? 

Ernest: Anyhow, I don't disapprove of you, yourself 
— of course, you're as obstinate as a mule 

Gilda: There you go again! "Strong as an ox!" 
"Obstinate as a mule!" Just a pack of Animal Grab — 
that's what I am ! Bring out all the other cards. " Gentle 
as a dove!" "Playful as a kitten!" "Black as a 


Ernest: u Brave as a lion!" 

Gilda: Oh, no, Ernest! You couldn't think that, 
disapproving of me as you do. 

Ernest: I was about to explain, when you so rudely 
interrupted, that it isn't you, yourself, I disapprove of. 
It's your mode of life. 

Gilda {laughing slightly) : Oh, I see ! 

Ernest: Your life is so dreadfully untidy, Gilda. 

Gilda: I'm not a tidy person. 

Ernest: You haven't yet answered my original ques- 

Gilda: Why I don't marry Otto? 

Ernest: Yes. Is there a real reason, or just a lot of 
faintly affected theories? 

Gilda: There's a very real reason. 

Ernest: Well? 

Gilda: I love him. (She glances towards the bedroom 
door and says louder) : I love him. 

Ernest : All right ! All right, there's no need to shout. 

Gilda: Yes, there is, every need. ■ I should like to 

Ernest: That would surely be very bad for Otto's 

Gilda (calming down): The only reasons for me to 
marry would be these: To have children; to have a 
home; to have a background for social activities, and to 
be provided for. Well, I don't like children; I don't 
wish for a home; I can't bear social activities, and I have 
a small but adequate income of my own. I love Otto 
deeply, and I respect him as a person and as an artist. 
To be tied legally to him would be repellent to me and to 
him, too. It's not a dashing bohemian gesture to Free 



Love: we just feel like that, both of us. Now, are you 

Ernest: If you are. 

Gilda: You're impossible, Ernest. You sit there 
looking quizzical, and it maddens me! 

Ernest: I am quizzical. 

Gilda: Well, be something else, for God's sake! 

Ernest : I suppose you know Leo is back? 

Gilda (Jumping slightly) : What? 

Ernest: I said, "I suppose you know Leo is back?" 

Gilda (tremendously astonished) : It's not true! 

Ernest: Didn't he let you know? 

Gilda (eagerly): When did he arrive? Where's he 

Ernest: He arrived yesterday on the Mauretania. 
I had a note from him last night. 

Gilda: Where's he staying? 

Ernest: You'll be shocked when I tell you. 

Gilda : Quickly ! — Quickly ! 

Ernest: The George V. 

Gilda (going of into peals of laughter) : He must be 
raving! The George V! Oh, dear, oh, dear! Leo, at 
the George V! It's a glorious picture. Marble bath- 
rooms and private balconies! Leo in all that grandeur! 
It isn't possible. 

Ernest: I gather he's made a good deal of money. 

Gilda: That's not enough excuse. He ought to be 
ashamed of himself! 

Ernest: I can't understand him, not letting you know 
he was back. I fully expected to find him here. 

Gilda: He'll appear sooner or later. 

Ernest: Are you glad he's made money? 


Gilda: Why do you ask that? 

Ernest: Curiosity. 

Gilda: Of course I'm glad. I adore Leo! 

Ernest: And Otto? What about Otto? 

Gilda (irritably): What do you mean, "What about 

Ernest: Will he be glad, too? 

Gilda: You're too ridiculous sometimes, Ernest. 
What are you suspecting? What are you trying to find 

Ernest: Nothing. I was only wondering. 

Gilda: It's all right. I know what you're getting at; 
but you're wrong as usual. Everybody's always wrong 
about Leo and Otto and me. I'm not jealous of Leo's 
money and success, and Otto won't be either when he 
knows. That's what you were suspecting, wasn't it? 

Ernest: Perhaps. 

Gilda (turning away): I think you should grasp the 
situation a little better, having known us all for so long. 

Ernest: Otto and Leo knew each other first. 

Gilda: Yes, yes, yes, yes — I know all about that! I 
came along and spoilt everything! Go on, dear 

Ernest: I didn't say that. 

Gilda (sharply) : It's what you meant. 

Ernest: I think, perhaps, you may have spoilt your- 
self a little. 

Gilda: Distrust of women frequently sets in at your 
age, Ernest. 

Ernest: I cannot, for the life of me, imagine why I'm 
so fond of you. You have such abominable manners. 

Gilda: It's probably the scarlet life I live, causing 
me to degenerate into a shrew. 


Ernest: Very likely. ' 

Gilda {suddenly, leaning over the hack of his chair, with 
her arms around him)'. I'm sorry — about my bad man- 
ners, I mean. Please forgive me. You're a darling, and 
you love us a lot, don't you? All three, of us? Me a 
little less than Otto and Leo because I'm a woman and, 
therefore, unreliable. Isn't that true? 

Ernest (patting her hand) : Quite. 

Gilda {leaving him) : Your affection is a scared thing, 
though. Too frightened; too apprehensive of conse- 
quences. Leave us to grapple with the consequences, 
my dear. We're bound to have a bad time every now 
and then, but, at least, we know it. We're aware of a 
whole lot of things. Look at us clearly as human beings, 
rather peculiar human beings, I grant you, and don't be 
prejudiced by our lack of social grace. I laughed too 
loudly just now at the thought of Leo being rich and rare. 
Too loudly because I was uneasy, not jealous. I don't 
want him to be any different, that's all. 

Ernest: I see. 

Gilda: Do you? Do you really? I doubt it. I 
don't see how anyone outside could. But I would like 
you to understand one thing absolutely and completely. 
I love Otto — whatever happens, I love Otto. 

Ernest: I never suggested for a moment that you didn't. 

Gilda: Wait. Wait and see. The immediate horizon 
is grey and forbidding and dangerous. You don't know 
what I'm talking about and you probably think I've gone 
mad, and I can't explain — not now. But, darling Ernest, 
there's a crisis on. A full-blooded, emotional crisis; and 
when I need you, which I expect will be very soon, I shall 
yell I I shall yell like mad! 



Ernest: I knew you were in a state about some- 

Gilda: Nasty shrewd little instincts shooting out and 
discovering things lurking in the atmosphere. It's 
funny about atmosphere, isn't it? Strong inside thoughts 
make outside impressions. Imprints on the ether. A 
horrid sort of spiritual television. 

Ernest: Quite. 

Gilda: Well, are you satisfied now? You felt some- 
thing was the matter, and you were right. It's always 
pleasant to be right, isn't it? 

Ernest: Not by any means. 

Gilda: You're right about something else, too. 

Ernest: What? 

Gilda: Women being unreliable. There are moments 
in life when I look upon my own damned femininity with 
complete nausea. There! 

Ernest (smiling): Good! 

Gilda: I don't like women at all, Ernest; and I like 
myself least of any of them. 

Ernest: Never mind. 

Gilda: I do mind. I mind bitterly. It humiliates 
me to the dust to think that I can go so far, clearly and in- 
telligently, keeping faith with my own standards — which 
are not female standards at all — preserving a certain 
decent integrity, not using any tricks; then, suddenly, 
something happens, a spark is struck and down I go into 
the mud! Squirming with archness, being aloof and 
desirable, consciously alluring, snatching and grabbing, 
evading and surrendering, dressed and painted for 
victory. An object of strange contempt ! 

Ernest: A lurid picture, perhaps a trifle exaggerated. 


Gilda: I wish it were. I wish it were 

Ernest: Drink a little coffee. 

Gilda: Perhaps you're right. 
She sits down suddenly. 

Ernest (pouring it out): There! 

Gilda: Thank you, Ernest. You're a great comfort. 
She sips a little. 
It's not very nice, is it? 

Ernest: Disgusting! 

Gilda: I must have burnt it. 

Ernest: You did, dear. 

Gilda: How lovely to be you! 

Ernest: In heaven's name, why? 

Gilda: You're a permanent spectator. You deal in 
pictures. You look at pictures all day long, good pic- 
tures and bad pictures; gay pictures and gloomy pictures, 
and you know why they're this or why they're that, 
because you're critical and knowledgeable and wise. 
You're a clever little dear, that's what you are — a clever 
little dear! 

She begins to laugh again. 

Ernest: Gilda, stop it! / 

Gilda: Take a look at this, my darling. Measure it 
with your eyes. Portrait of a woman in three cardinal 
colours. Portrait of a too loving spirit tied down to a 
predatory feminine carcass. 

Ernest: This is definitely macabre. 

Gilda: Right, again! 

Ernest: I think I'd better go. You ought to lie down 
or something. 

Gilda {hysterically): Stay a little longer, you'll find 
out so much. 



Ernest: I don't want to find out anything. You're 
scaring me to death. 

Gilda: Courage, Ernest. Be brave. Look at the 
whole thing as a side show. People pay to see freaks. 
Walk up! Walk up and see the Fat Lady and the 
Monkey Man and the Living Skeleton and the Three 
Famous Hermaphrodites ! — ■ — 

There is a noise outside in the passage. The door 
bursts open, and Otto fairly bounds into the room. 
He is tall and good-looking, wearing a travelling coat 
and hat, and carrying a suitcase and a large package oj 
painting materials. 

Gilda: Otto! 

Otto (striking an attitude) : I've come home ! 

Gilda: You see what happens when I crack the whip! 

Otto: Little Ernest! How very sweet to see you! 
He kisses him. 

Gilda: When did you leave Bordeaux? 

Otto: Night train, dear heart. 

Gilda: Why didn't you telegraph? 

Otto: I don't hold with these modern innovations. 

Ernest: This is very interesting. 

Otto: What's very interesting? 

Ernest: Life, Otto. I was just meditating upon 

Otto (to Gilda) : I've finished the picture. 

Gilda: Really? Completely finished it? 

Otto: Yes, it's fine. I brought it away with me. I 
made the old fool sit for hours and wouldn't let her see, 
and afterwards when she did she made the most awful 
scene. She said it was out of drawing and made her look 
podgy; then I lost my temper and said it was overeating 



and lack of exercise that made her look podgy, and that 
it was not only an exquisite painting but unfalteringly 
true to life. Then she practically ordered me out of the 
house! I don't suppose she'll ever pay me the rest of 
the money, but to hell with her! If she doesn't, I shall 
have the picture. 

Ernest: Unwise, but, I am sure, enjoyable. 
There is silence. 

Otto: Well? 

Gilda: Well what? 

Otto: What on earth's the matter? 

Gilda: Why should you think anything's the matter? 

Otto {looking from one to the other) : Have your faces 
lit up? No. Have you rushed at me with outstretched 
arms? No. Are you, either of you, even remotely 
pleased to see me? Obviously NO! Something dread- 
ful has happened and you're trying to decide how to 
break the news to me. What is it? Tell me at once! 
What's the matter? 

Ernest (with slight malice) : Gilda has neuralgia. 

Otto: Nonsense! She's as strong as a horse. 

Gilda (laughing wildly): Oh, my God! 

Otto (to Ernest): What's she "Oh, my God-ing" 

Ernest: It's glandular. Everything's glandular. 

Otto: Have you both gone mad? 

Gilda: Don't take off your coat and hat. 

Otto: What? 

Gilda (very slowly and distinctly): I said, "Don't take 
off your coat and hat." 

Otto (humouring her) : Very well, darling, I won't, I 
promise you. As a matter of fact, I said to myself only 



this morning, "Otto," I said, "Otto, you must never, 
never be parted from your coat and hat! Never, never, 

Gilda: There's a surprise for you, darling. A beauti- 
ful surprise! 

Otto: What? 

Gilda: You must go to the George V at once. 

Otto: The George V? 

Gilda: Yes. That's the surprise. 

Otto: Who is it? Who's at the George V? 

Gilda: Leo. 

Otto: You're not serious? He couldn't be. 

Gilda: He is. He came back on the Mauretania. 
His play is still running in Chicago, and he's sold the 
movie rights and he's made thousands! 

Otto : Have you seen him? 

Gilda: Of course! Last night. 

.Ernest: Well, I'm damned! 

Gilda: I told you you didn't understand, Ernest. 
(To Otto) : If you'd only let me know you were coming, 
we could have both met you at the station. It would 
have been so lovely ! Leo will be furious. You must go 
to him at once and bring him back here and we'll make 
some sort of a plan for the day. 

Otto: This is good, good, better than good! An ex- 
cellent, super homecoming! I was thinking of him last 
night, bumping along in that awful train. I thought of 
him for hours, I swear I did. Cross my hand with silver, 
lady, I'm so definitely the Gipsy Queen! Oh, God, how 
marvellous! He'll be able to go to Annecy with us. 

Gilda: He's got to go back to New York, and then to 



Otto: Splendid! We'll go with him. He's been 

away far too long. Come on 

He seizes Gilda's hand. 

Gilda: No. 

Ernest: What are you going to do? 

Gilda: Stay here and tidy up. You go with Otto to 
fetch Leo. You said my life was untidy, didn't you? 
Well, I'm taking it to heart! 

Otto: Come on, Gilda; it doesn't matter about tidying 

Gilda: Yes, it does. It does! It's the most impor- 
tant thing in the world — an orderly mind; that's the thing 
to have. 

Otto: He's probably brought us presents, and if he's 
rich they'll be expensive presents. Very nice! Very 
nice, indeed. Come along, Ernest, my little honey — 
we'll take a taxi. 

Ernest: I don't think I'll go. 

Otto: You must. He likes seeing you almost as 
much as us. Come on! 

He grabs Ernest by the shoulders and shoves him 
towards the door. 

Gilda: Of course, go, Ernest, and come back too and 
we'll all celebrate. I'm yelling! Can't you hear me 
yelling like mad? 

Otto: What on earth are you talking about? 

Gilda: A bad joke, and very difficult to explain. 

Otto: Good-morning, darling! I never kissed you 

Gilda: Never mind about that now. Go on, both of 
you, or he'll have gone out. You don't want to miss 



Otto {firmly kissing her) : Good-morning, darling. 

Gilda {suddenly stiffening in his arms) : Dearest 

Otto and Ernest go to the door. 

Gilda {suddenly): Otto ' 

Otto {turning) : Yes? 

Gilda {smiling gaily, but with a slight strain in her 
voice) : I love you very much, so be careful crossing roads, 
won't you? Look to the right and the left and all around 
everything, and don't do anything foolish and impulsive. 

Please remember, there's a dear 

Otto: Be quiet, don't pester me with your attentions! 
{To Ernest as they go out) : She's crazy about me, poor 
little thing; just crazy about me. 

They go out. Gilda stands quite still for a moment 
or two staring after them; then she sits down at a table. 
Leo comes out of the bedroom. He is thin and nervous 
and obviously making a tremendous effort to control 
' himself. He walks about aimlessly for a little and 
finishes up looking out of the window, with his back to 
Leo: What now? 
Gilda: I don't know. 
Leo: Not much time to think. 
Gilda: A few minutes. 
Leo: Are there any cigarettes? 
Gilda: Yes, in that box. 
Leo: Want one? 
Gilda: No. 

Leo {lighting one) : It's nice being human beings, isn't 
it? I'm sure God's angels must envy us. 

Gilda: Whom do you love best? Otto or me? 
Leo: Silly question. 



Gilda: Answer me, anyhow. 

Leo: How can I? Be sensible! In any case, what 
does it matter? 

Gilda: It's important to me. 

Leo: No, it isn't — not really. That's not what's 
important. What we did was inevitable. It's been 
inevitable for years. It doesn't matter who loves who 
the most; you can't line up things like that mathemati- 
cally. We all love each other a lot, far too much, and 
we've made a bloody mess of it! That was inevitable, 

Gilda: We must get it straight, somehow. 

Leo: Yes, we must get it straight and tie it up with 
ribbons with a bow on the top. Pity it isn't Valentine's 

Gilda: Can't we laugh a little? Isn't it a joke? 
Can't we make it a joke? 

Leo: Yes, it's a joke. It's a joke, all right. We can 
laugh until our sides ache. Let's start, shall we? 

Gilda: What's the truth of it? The absolute, deep- 
down truth? Until we really know that, we can't grap- 
ple with it. We can't do a thing. We can only sit here 
flicking words about. 

Leo: It should be easy, you know. The actual facts 
are so simple. I love you. You love me. You love 
Otto. I love Otto. Otto loves you. Otto loves me. 
There now! Start to unravel from there. 

Gilda: We've always been honest, though, all of us. 
Honest with each other, I mean. That's something to 
go on, isn't it? 

Leo: In this particular instance, it makes the whole 
thing far more complicated. If we were ordinary moral, 



high-thinking citizens we could carry on a backstairs 
affair for weeks without saying a word about it. We 
could lunch and dine together, all three, and not give 
anything away by so much as a look. 

Gilda: If we were ordinary moral, high-thinking 
citizens we shouldn't have had an affair at all. 

Leo: Perhaps not. We should have crushed it down. 
And the more we crushed it down the more we should 
have resented Otto, until we hated him. Just think of 
hating Otto 

Gilda: Just think of him hating us. 

Leo: Do you think he will? 

Gilda (inexorably): Yes. 

Leo (walking about the room) : Oh, no, no — he mustn't! 
It's too silly. He must see how unimportant it is, 

Gilda: There's no question of not telling him, is there? 

Leo: Of course not. 

Gilda: We could pretend that you just arrived here 
and missed them on the way. 

Leo: So we could, dear — so we could. 

Gilda: Do you think we're working each other up? 
Do you think we're imagining it to be more serious than 
it really is? 

Leo: Perhaps. 

Gilda: Do you think, after all, he may not mind quite 
so dreadfully? 

Leo: He'll mind just as much as you or I would under 
similar circumstances. Probably a little bit more. 
Imagine that for a moment, will you? Put yourself in 
his place. 

Gilda (hopelessly): Oh, don't! 

[22 J 



Leo: Tell me one thing. How sorry were you last 
night, when once you realized we were in for it? 

Gilda: I wasn't sorry at all. I gave way utterly. 

Leo: So did I. 

Gilda: Very deep inside, I had a qualm or two. Just 
once or twice. 

Leo: So did I. 

Gilda: But I stamped on them, like killing beetles. 

Leo: A nice way to describe the pangs of a noble 

Gilda: I enjoyed it all, see! I enjoyed it thoroughly 
from the very first moment. So there! 

Leo: All right! All right! So did I. 

Gilda (defiantly): It was romantic. Suddenly, vio- 
lently romantic! The whole evening was " Gala." You 
looked lovely, darling — very smooth and velvety — and 
your manner was a dream! I'd forgotten about your 
French accent and the way you move your hands, and 
the way you dance. A sleek little gigolo! 

Leo: You must try not to be bitter, dear. 

Gilda: There seemed to be something new about you: 
something I'd never realized before. Perhaps it's having 
money. Perhaps your success has given you a little 
extra glamour. 

Leo: Look at me now, sweet! It's quite chilly, this 
morning light. How do I appear to you now? 

Gilda (gently) : The same. 

Leo: So do you, but that's because my eyes are slow 
at changing visions. I still see you too clearly last night 
to be able to realize how you look this morning. You were 
very got up — very got up, indeed, in your green dress and 
your earrings. It was "Gala," all right — strong magic! 



Gilda: Coloured lights, sly music, overhanging trees, 
paper streamers — all the trappings. 

Leo: Champagne, too, just to celebrate, both of us 
hating it. 

Gilda: We drank to Otto. Perhaps you remember 
that as well? 

Leo: Perfectly. 

Gilda : How could we? Oh, how could we? 

Leo: It seemed quite natural. 

Gilda: Yes, but we knew in our hearts what we were 
up to. It was vile of us. 

Leo: I'll drink Otto's health until the day I die! 
Nothing could change that ever. 

Gilda: Sentimentalist! 

Leo: Deeper than sentiment: far, far deeper. Beyond 
the reach of small enchantments. 

Gilda: Was that all it was to you? A small enchant- 

Leo : That's all it ever is to anybody, if only they knew. 

Gilda: Easy wisdom. Is it a comfort to you? 

Leo: Not particularly. 

Gilda {viciously): Let's have some more! "Passion's 
only transitory," isn't it? "Love is ever fleeting!" 
"Time is a great healer." Trot them all out, dear. 

Leo: Don't try to quarrel with me. 

Gilda: Don't be so wise and assured and knowing, 
then. It's infuriating. 

Leo: I believe I was more to blame than you, really. 

Gilda: Why? 

Leo: I made the running. 

Gilda: You made the running! 
She laughs. 


Leo: A silly pride made me show off to you, parade 
my attraction for you, like a mannequin. New spring 
model, with a few extra flounces! 

Gilda: That's my story, Leo; you can't steal it from 
me. I've been wallowing in self-abasement, dragging 
out my last night's femininity and spitting on it. I've 
taken the blame onto myself for the whole thing. Ernest 
was quite shocked; you should have been listening at the 

Leo : I was. 

Gilda: Good! Then you know how I feel. 

Leo : Lot of damned hysteria. 

Gilda: Possibly, but heartfelt at the moment. 

Leo: Can't we put an end to this flagellation party 

Gilda: We might just as well go on with it, it passes 
the time. 

Leo : Until Otto comes back. 

Gilda: Yes. Until Otto comes back. 

Leo (walking up and down): I expect jealousy had 
something to do with it, too. 

Gilda: Jealousy? 

Leo: Yes. Subconscious and buried deep, but there 
all the same; there for ages, ever since our first meeting 
when you chose Otto so firmly. 

Gilda: Another of those pleasant little galas! The 
awakening of spring! Romance in a cafe! Yes, sir! 
"Yes, sir, three bags full!" 

Leo: A strange evening. Very gay, if I remember 

Gilda: Oh, it was gay, deliriously gay, thick with 



Leo: Perhaps we laughed at them too hard. 

Gilda: You and Otto had a row afterwards, didn't 

Leo: Yes, a beauty. 

Gilda: Blows? 

Leo: Ineffectual blows. Otto fell into the bath! 

Gilda: Was there any water in it? 

Leo: Not at first. 

Gilda (beginning to laugh) : Leo, you didn't ? 

Leo (also beginning to laugh): Of course I did; it was 
the obvious thing to do. 

Gilda: Couldn't he get out? 

Leo : Every time he tried, I pushed him back. 

Gilda (now laughing helplessly): Oh, the poor dar- 

Leo (giving way) : Finally — he — he got wedged 

Gilda: This is hysteria! Stop it, stop it 

Leo (sinking down at the table with his head in his hands, 
roaring with laughter): It — it was a very narrow bath, 

far — far — too narrow 

Gilda (collapsing at the other side of the table) : Shut up, 
for heaven's sake! Shut up — — ■ 

They are sitting there, groaning with laughter, when 
Otto comes into the room. 
Otto: Leo! 

They both look up, and the laughter dies away from 
their faces. Leo rises and comes slowly over to Otto. 
He takes both his hands and stands looking at him. 
Leo: Hello, Otto. 

Otto: Why did you stop laughing so suddenly? 
Leo: It's funny how lovely it is to see you. 
Otto: Why funny? 



Gilda: Where's Ernest? 

Otto: He wouldn't come back with me. He darted 
off in a taxi very abruptly when we found Leo wasn't at 
the hotel. He seemed to be in a fluster. 

Leo: Ernest's often in a fluster. It's part of his per- 
sonality, I think. 

Otto: Ernest hasn't got a personality. 

Gilda: Yes, he has; but it's only a very little one, 
gentle and prim. 

Otto: You've changed, Leo. Your face looks differ- 

Leo: In what way different? 

Otto: I don't know, sort of odd. 

Leo: I was very seasick on the Mauretania. Perhaps 
that changed it. 

Gilda: They call the Mauretania "The Greyhound of 
the Ocean." I wonder why? 

Leo: Because it's too long and too thin and leaps up 
and down. 

Gilda: Personally, I prefer the Olympic. It's a good- 
natured boat and cozy, also it has a Turkish bath. 

Leo: I dearly love a Turkish bath. 

Otto: Have you both gone crazy? 

Leo: Yes. Just for a little. 

Otto: What does that mean? 

Gilda: Lots of things, Otto. Everything's quite 

Otto: I'm awfully puzzled. I wish you'd both stop 
hinting and tell me what's happened. 

Leo: It's serious, Otto. Please try to be wise about it. 

Otto (with slight irritation): How the hell can I be 
wise about it if I don't know what it is? 



Leo (turning away): Oh, God! This is unbearable! 

Otto (fighting against the truth that's dawning on him) : 
It wouldn't be what I think it is, would it? I mean, 
what's just dropped into my mind. It isn't that, is it? 

Gilda: Yes. 

Leo: Yes. 

Otto (very quietly) : Oh, I see. 

Gilda (miserably) : If only you wouldn't look like that. 

Otto : I can't see that it matters very much how I look. 

Leo: We're — we're both equally to blame. 

Otto: When did you arrive? When — when did — 
don't you think you'd better tell me a little more? 

Leo (swiftly) : I arrived yesterday afternoon, and the 
moment I'd left my bags at the hotel I came straight 
here, naturally. Gilda and I dined together, and I spent 
the night here. 

Otto: Oh — oh, did you? 

Leo (after a long pause) : Yes, I did. 

Otto: This is the second bad entrance I've made this 
morning. I don't think I'd better make any more. 

Gilda: Otto — darling — please, listen a minute! 

Otto: What is there to listen to? What is there for 
you to say? 

Gilda: Nothing. You're quite right. Nothing at 

Otto: Have you planned it? Before, I mean? 

Leo: Of course not. 

Otto: Was it in your minds? 

Leo: Yes. It's been in all our minds, for ages. You 
know that. 

Otto: You couldn't have controlled yourself? Not 
for my sake, alone, but for all that lies between us? 



Leo: We could have, I suppose. But we didn't. 

Otto (still quiet, but trembling): Instead of meanly 
taking advantage of my being away, couldn't you 
have waited until I came back, and told me how you 

Leo: Would that have made things any better? 

Otto: It would have been honest, at least. 

Leo (with sudden violence): Bunk! We're being as 
honest as we know how! Chance caught us, as it was 
bound to catch us eventually. We were doomed to it 
from the very first moment. You don't suppose we en- 
joy telling you, do you? You don't suppose I like watch- 
ing the pleasure at seeing me fade out of your eyes? If it 
wasn't that we loved you deeply, both of us, we'd lie to 
you and deceive you indefinitely, rather than inflict this 
horror on ourselves. 

Otto (his voice rising slightly): And what about the 
horror you're inflicting on me? 

Gilda: Don't argue, Leo. What's the use of arguing? 

Otto: So, you love me, do you? Both of you love me 
deeply! I don't want a love that can shut me out and 
make me feel more utterly alone than I've ever felt in my 
life before. 

Gilda: Don't say that — it's not true! You couldn't 
be shut out — ever! Not possibly. Hold on to reason 
for a moment, for the sake of all of us — hold on to reason! 
It's our only chance. We've known this might happen 
any day; we've actually discussed it, quite calmly and 
rationally, but then there wasn't any emotion mixed up 
with it. Now there is, and we've got to fight it. It's 
distorting and overbalancing everything — don't you see? 
Oh, please, please try to see 



Otto: I see all right. Believe me, I see perfectly! 

Gilda: You don't, really — it's hopeless. 

Otto: Quite hopeless. 

Gilda: It needn't be, if only we can tide over this 

Otto: Why should we tide over this moment? It's a 
big moment! Let's make the most of it. 
He gives a little laugh. 

Leo : I suppose that way of taking it is as good as any. 

Gilda: No, it isn't — it isn't. 

T)tto: I still find the whole thing a little difficult to 
realize completely. You must forgive me for being so 
stupid. I see quite clearly; I hear quite clearly; I know 
what's happened quite clearly, but I still don't quite 

Leo : What more do you want to understand? 

Otto : Were you both drunk? 

Gilda: Of course we weren't. 

Otto: Then that's ruled out. One thing is still be- 
wildering me very much. Quite a small trivial thing 
You are both obviously strained and upset and unhappy 
at having to tell me. Isn't that so? 

Gilda: Yes. 

Otto: Then why were you laughing when I came in? 

Leo : Oh, what on earth does that matter? 

Otto: It matters a lot. It's very interesting. 

Leo: It was completely irrelevant. Hysteria. It 
had nothing to do with anything. 

Otto: Why were you both laughing when I came in? 

Leo: It was hysteria, I tell you. 

Otto : Were you laughing at me? 

Leo {wildly): Yes, we were! We were! We were 



laughing at you being wedged in the bath. That's what 
we were laughing at. 

Gilda: Shut up, Leo! Stop it. 

Leo (giving way) : And I shall laugh at that until the 
end of my days — I shall roll about on my death bed think- 
ing about it — and there are other things I shall laugh at, 
too. I shall laugh at you now, in this situation, being 
hurt and grieved and immeasurably calm. What right 
have you to be hurt and grieved, any more than Gilda 
and me? We're having just as bad a time as you are, 
probably worse. I didn't stamp about with a martyr's 
crown on when you rushed off with her, in the first place; 
I didn't look wistful and say I was shut out. And I 
don't intend to stand any of that nonsense from you! 
What happened between Gilda and me last night is 
actually completely unimportant — a sudden flare-up — 
and although we've been mutually attracted to each other 
for years, it wasn't even based on deep sexual love! It 
was just an unpremeditated roll in the hay and we en- 
joyed it very much, so there! 

Otto (furiously): Well, one thing that magnificent 
outburst has done for me is this: I don't feel shut out any 
more. Do you hear? Not any more! And I'm ex- 
tremely grateful to you. You were right about me being 
hurt and grieved. I was. But that's over, too. I've 
seen something in you that I've never seen before; in all 
these years I've never noticed it — I never realized that, 
deep down underneath your superficial charm and wit, 
you're nothing but a cheap, second-rate little opportun- 
ist, ready to sacrifice anything, however sacred, to the 
excitement of the moment 

Gilda : Otto ! Otto — listen a minute ; please listen 


Otto (turning to her) : Listen to what? A few garbled 
explanations and excuses, fully charged with a hundred- 
per-cent feminine emotionalism, appealing to me to hold 
on to reason and intelligence as it's "our only chance. ,, 
I don't want an "only chance" — I don't want a chance 
to do anything but say what I have to say and leave you 
both to your own god-damned devices! Where was this 
much vaunted reason and intelligence last night? Work- 
ing overtime, I'm sure. Working in a hundred small 
female ways. I expect your reason and intelligence 
prompted you to wear your green dress, didn't it? With 
the emerald earrings? And your green shoes, too, al- 
though they hurt you when you dance. Reason must 
have whispered kindly in your ear on your way back here 
in the taxi. It must have said, "Otto's in Bordeaux, 
and Bordeaux is a long way away, so everything will be 
quite safe!" That's reason, all right — pure reason 

Gilda (collapsing at the table) : Stop it! Stop it! How 
can you be so cruel! How can you say such vile 

Otto (without a break) : I hope "intelligence" gave you 
a little extra jab and suggested that you lock the door? 
In furtive, underhand affairs doors are always locked 

Leo: Shut up, Otto. What's the use of going on like 

Otto: Don't speak to me — old, old Loyal Friend that 
you are! Don't speak to me, even if you have the cour- 
age, and keep out of my sight from now onwards 

Leo: Bravo, Deathless Drama! 

Otto: Wrong again. Lifeless Comedy. You've set 
me free from a stale affection that must have died ages 
ago without my realizing it. Go ahead, my boy, and do 


great things! You've already achieved a Hotel de Luxe, 
a few smart suits, and the woman I loved. Go ahead, 
maybe there are still higher peaks for you to climb. 
Good luck, both of you! Wonderful luck! I wish you 
were dead and in hell! 

He slams out of the room as the curtain falls. 




Scene I 

ACT TWO: Scene I 

The scene is Leo's flat in London. It is only a rented 
flat but very comfortably furnished. Two French 
windows at the back open onto a small balcony, which, 
in turn, overlooks a square. It is several floors up, so 
only the tops of trees can be seen; these are brown and 
losing their leaves, as it is autumn. Down stage, on 
the Right, are double doors leading to the hall. Above 
these, a small door leads to the kitchen. On the Left, up 
stage, another door leads to the bedroom and bathroom. 
There is a large picture of Gilda, painted by Otto, 
hanging on the wall. The furniture may be left to the 
producer's discrimination. 

Discovered: When the curtain rises, it is about ten-thirty 
in the morning. Eighteen months have passed since A ct 
One. The room is strewn with newspapers. Gilda is 
lying on the sofa, reading one; Leo is lying face down- 
wards on the floor, reading another one. 

Leo {rolling over on his back and flinging the paper in the 
air): It's a knockout! It's magnificent! It'll run a 

Gilda: Two years. 

Leo: Three years. 

Gilda: Four years, five years, six years! It'll run 
for ever. Old ladies will be trampled to death struggling 



to get into the pit. Women will have babies regularly 
in the upper circle bar during the big scene at the end of 
the second act 

Leo {complacently) : Regularly as clockwork. 

Gilda: The Daily Mail says it's daring and dramatic 
and witty. 

Leo: The Daily Express says it's disgusting. 

Gilda: I should be cut to the quick if it said anything 

Leo: The Daily Mirror, I regret to say, is a trifle carp- 

Gilda: Getting uppish, I see. Naughty little thing! 

Leo {reading the Daily Mirror): " Change and Decay 
is gripping throughout. The characterization falters 
here and there, but the dialogue is polished and sustains a 
high level from first to last and is frequently witty, nay, 
even brilliant " 

Gilda: I love "Nay." 

Leo {still reading): "But" — here we go, dear! — "But 
the play, on the whole, is decidedly thin." 

Gilda: My God! They've noticed it. 

Leo (jumping up): Thin — thin! What do they mean 

Gilda: Just thin, darling. Thin's thin all the world 
over and you can't get away from it. 

Leo: Would you call it thin? 

Gilda: Emaciated. 

Leo: I shall write fat plays from now onwards.. Fat 
plays filled with very fat people! 

Gilda: You mustn't let your vibrations be upset by 
the Daily Mirror. It means to be kind. That's why 
one only looks at the pictures. 



Leo: The Daily Sketch is just as bad. 

Gilda {gently) : Just as good, dear — just as good. 

Leo: Let's have another look at Old Father Times, 

Gilda: It's there, behind the Telegraph. 

Leo {glancing through it) : Noncommittal, but amiable. 
A minute, if slightly inaccurate, description of the plot. 

Gilda {rising and looking over his shoulder): Only a 
few of the names wrong. 

Leo: They seem to have missed the main idea of the 

Gilda: You mustn't grumble; they say the lines are 

Leo: What could they mean by that? 

Gilda: Anyhow, you can't expect a paper like the 
Times to be really interested in your petty little ex- 
cursions in the theatre. After all, it is the organ of the 

Leo : That sounds vaguely pornographic to me. 
The telephone rings. 

Leo {answering it) : Hallow! Hallow — 'oo is it speak- 
ing? — H'if — if you will kaindly 'old the line for a moment, 
h'l will ascertain. 

He places his hand over the receiver. 
Lady Brevell! 

Gilda: Tell her to go to hell. 

Leo: It's the third time she's rung up this morning. 

Gilda: No restraint. That's what's wrong with 
Society nowadays. 

Leo {at telephone again): Hallow, hallow! — I am seu 
very sorry but Mr. Mercure is not awake yet. 'E 'ad a 
very tiring night what with one thing and another. H'is 
there any message? — Lunch on the third — or dinner on 



the seventh. — Yes, I'll write it daown — not at all! — 
Thenk you. 

Gilda (seriously) : How do you feel about all that? 

Leo: Amused. 

Gilda: I'm not sure that I do. 

Leo: It's only funny, really. 

Gilda: Yes, but dangerous. 

Leo: Are you frightened that my silly fluffy little 
head will be turned? 

Gilda: No, not exactly, but it makes me uncomfort- 
able, this snatching that goes on. Success is far more 
perilous than failure, isn't it? You've got to be doubly 
strong and watchful and wary. 

Leo: Perhaps I shall survive. 

Gilda: You'll survive all right, in the long run — I 
don't doubt that for a moment. It's me I was worrying 

Leo: Why? 

Gilda: Not me, alone. Us. 

Leo: Oh, I see. 

Gilda: Maybe I'm jealous of you. I never thought 
of that. 

Leo: Darling, don't be silly! 

Gilda: Last year was bad enough. This is going to 
be far worse. 

Leo: Why be scared? 

Gilda: Where do we go from here? That's what I 
want to know. 

Leo: How would you feel about getting married? 

Gilda (laughing): It's not that, dear! 

Leo: I know it isn't, but 

Gilda: But what? 



Leo: It might be rather fun. We'd get a lot more 
presents now than if we'd done it before. 

Gilda: A very grand marriage. St. Margaret's, 

Leo: Yes, with a tremendous "do" at Claridge's after- 

Gilda: The honeymoon would be thrilling, wouldn't 
it? Just you and me, alone, rinding out about each 

Leo: I'd be very gentle with you, very tender. 

Gilda: You'd get a sock in the jaw, if you were! 

Leo (shocked): Oh, how volgar! How inexpressibly 

Gilda: It's an enjoyable idea to play with, isn't it? 

Leo: Let's do it. 

Gilda: Stop! Stop, stop — you're rushing me off my 

Leo: No, but seriously, it's a much better plan than 
you think. It would ease small social situations enor- 
mously. The more successful I become, the more compli- 
cated everything's going to get. Let's do it, Gilda. 

Gilda: No. 

Leo: Why not? 

Gilda: It wouldn't do. Really, it wouldn't. 

Leo: I think you're wrong. 

Gilda: It doesn't matter enough about the small 
social situations, those don't concern me much, anyway. 
They never have and they never will. I shouldn't feel 
cozy, married! It would upset my moral principles. 

Leo: Doesn't the Eye of Heaven mean anything to 

Gilda: Only when it winks! 


Leo: God knows, it ought to wink enough at our mar- 

Gilda: Also, there's another thing. 

Leo: What? 

Gilda: Otto. 

Leo: Otto! 

Gilda: Yes. I think he'd hate it. 

Leo: I wonder if he would. 

Gilda: I believe so. There'd be no reason for him to, 
really; but I believe he would. 

Leo : If only he'd appear again we could ask him. 

Gilda: He will, sooner or later; he can't go on being 
cross for ever. 

Leo: Funny, about Otto. 

Gilda: Screamingly funny. 

Leo: Do you love him still? 

Gilda: Of course. Don't you? 

Leo (sighing): Yes. 

Gilda: We couldn't not love Otto, really. 

Leo: Could you live with him again? 

Gilda: No, I don't think so; that part of it's dead. 

Leo : We were right, weren't we? Unconditionally right. 

Gilda-: Yes. I wish it hadn't been so drastic, though, 
and violent and horrid. I hated him being made so un- 

Leo: We weren't any too joyful ourselves, at first. 

Gilda: Conscience gnawing at our vitals. 

Leo : Do you think — do you think he'll ever get over 
it, enough for us all to be together again? 

Gilda (with sudden vehemence) : I don't want all to be 
together again. 

The telephone rings. 



Leo: Damn! 

Gilda {humming): Oh, Death, where is thy sting-a- 

Leo {at telephone) : Hallow! Hallow — Neo, I'm afraid 
he's eout. 

He hangs up. 

Gilda: Why don't you let Miss Hodge answer the 
telephone? It would save you an awful lot of trouble. 

Leo: Do you think she could? 

Gilda: I don't see why not ; she seems in full possession 
of most of her faculties. 

Leo: Where is she? 

Gilda: She's what's known as "doing the bed- 

Leo {calling) : Miss Hodge — Miss Hodge 

Gilda: We ought to have a valet in a white coat, 
really. Think if television came in suddenly, and 
everyone who rang up was faced with Miss Hodge! 

Miss Hodge enters. She is dusty and extremely 

Miss Hodge: Did you call? 

Leo: Yes, Miss Hodge. 

Miss Hodge : I was doing the bedroom. 

Leo: Yes, I know you were and I'm sorry to disturb 
you, but I have a favour to ask you. 

Miss Hodge {suspiciously) : Favour? 

Leo: Yes. Every time the telephone rings, will you 
answer it for me? 

Miss Hodge {with dignity) : If I 'appen to be where I 
can 'ear it, I will with pleasure. 

Leo: Thank you very much. Just ask who it is 
speaking and tell them to hold the line. 



Miss Hodge: 'Ow long for? 
Leo: Until you've told me. 
Miss Hodge: All right. 

She goes back into the bedroom. 
Leo: I fear no good will come of that. 
Gilda: Do you think while I am here alone in the 
evenings, when you are rushing madly from party to 
party, I might find out about Miss Hodge's inner 

The telephone rings. 
Leo: There now! 

They both wait while the telephone continues to ring. 
Gilda {sadly): Two valets in two white coats, that's 
what we need, and a secretary and an upper house- 

The telephone continues to ring. 
Leo: Perhaps I'd better answer it, after all. 
Gilda: No, let it ring. I love the tone. 

Miss Hodge comes flying in breathlessly, and 
rushes to the telephone. 
Miss Hodge {at telephone): 'Alio! 'Alio! 'Allo-'allo- 


Gilda: This is getting monotonous. 

Miss Hodge {continuing) : 'Alio, 'alio — 'alio ! 'Allo- 

Gilda {conversationally) : Tell me, Mr. Mercure, what 
do you think of the modern girl? 

Leo {politely) : A silly bitch. 

Gilda: How cynical! 

Miss Hodge: . . . 'alio, 'alio, 'alio, 'alio — 'Alio! 


She turns to them despondently. 
There don't seem to be anyone there. 



Leo: Never mind, Miss Hodge. We mustn't hope for 
too much, at first. Thank you very much. 

Miss Hodge: Not at all, sir. 
She goes out again. 

Gilda: I feel suddenly irritated. 

Leo: Why? 

Gilda: I don't know. Reaction, I expect, after the 
anxiety of the last few days. Now it's all over and every- 
thing seems rather blank. How happy are you, really? 

Leo: Very, I think. 

Gilda: I don't work hard enough, not nearly hard 
enough; I've only done four houses for four silly women 
since we've been in England. 

Leo : Monica Jevon wants you to do hers the moment 
she comes back. 

Gilda: That'll make the fifth silly woman. 

Leo: She's not so particularly silly. 

Gilda: She's nice, really, nicer than most of them, I 
suppose. Oh, dear! 

Leo: Cigarette? 

He throws her one. 

Gilda: Ernest was right. 

Leo: How do you mean? When? 

Gilda: Ages ago. He said my life was untidy. And 
it is untidy. At this moment it's untidier than ever. 
Perhaps you're wise about our marrying; perhaps it 
would be a good thing. I'm developing into one of 
those tedious unoccupied women, who batten on men and 
spoil everything for them. I'm spoiling the excitement 
of your success for you now by being tiresome and 

Leo: Do you think marriage would automatically 



transform you into a busy, high-spirited Peg-o'-My- 

Gilda: Something's missing, and I don't know what it 

Leo: Don't you? 

Gilda: No. Do you? 

Leo: Yes, I do. I know perfectly well what's miss- 

The telephone rings again, 

Gilda: I'll do it this time. 
She goes to the telephone. 
Hallo! Yes. — Oh, yes, of course! How do you do? — 
Yes, he's here, I'll call him. — What? — I'm sure he'd love 
to. — That's terribly sweet of you, but I'm afraid I can't. 
— No, I've got to go to Paris. — No, only for a few 

Leo: Who is it? 

Gilda {with her hand over the receiver) : Mrs. Borrow- 
dale. She wants you for the week-end. — (Into telephone 
again) : Here he is. 

Leo (taking telephone) : Hallo, Marion. — Yes, wasn't it 
marvellous? — Terrified out of my seven senses. — What? 
— Well, I'm not sure 

Gilda (hissing at him): Yes, you are — quite sure! 

Leo: Just hold on one minute while I look at my 
book. — 

He puts his hand over the receiver. 
What will you do if I go? 

Gilda: Commit suicide immediately, don't be so 

Leo: Why didn't you accept, too? She asked you. 

Gilda: Because I don't want to go. 



Leo (at telephone): No, there isn't a thing down for 
Saturday. I'd love to come. — Yes, that'll be grand. — 

He comes over to Gilda. 
Why don't you want to come? She's awfully amusing, 
and the house is lovely. 

Gilda: It's much better for you to go alone. 

Leo: All right. Have it your own way. 

Gilda: Don't think I'm being tiresome again, there's a 
darling! I just couldn't make the effort — that's the 
honest-to-God reason. I'm no good at house parties; I 
never was. 

Leo: Marion's house parties are different. You can 
do what you like and nobody worries you. 

Gilda: I can never find what I like in other people's 
houses, and everybody worries me. 

Leo: I suppose I must be more gregarious than you. 
I enjoy meeting new people. 

Gilda: I enjoy meeting new people, too, but not 
second-hand ones. 

Leo: As I said before, Marion's house parties are ex- 
tremely amusing. She doesn't like "second-hand" 
people, as you call them, any more than you do. Inci- 
dentally, she's a very intelligent woman herself and ex- 
ceedingly good company. 

Gilda: I never said she wasn't intelligent, and I'm 
sure she's excellent company. She has to be. It's her 

Leo: That was a cheap gibe — thoroughly cheap 

The telephone rings again. Miss Hodge sur- 
prisingly appears almost at once. They sit silent 
while she answers it. 



Miss Hodge {at telephone) : 'Alio ! 'Alio — yes 

She holds out the telephone to Leo. 
'Ere, it's for you. 

Leo {hopelessly) : Dear God! 

He takes it and Miss Hodge goes out. 
Hallo! — Yes, speaking. — Evening Standard? — Oh, all 
right, send him up. 

Gilda: This is a horrible morning. 

Leo: I'm sorry. 

Gilda: You needn't be. It isn't your fault. 

Leo : Yes, it is, I'm afraid. I happen to have written 
a successful play. 

Gilda {exasperated) : Oh, really 

She turns away. 

Leo: Well, it's true, isn't it? That's what's upsetting 

Gilda: Do you honestly think that? 

Leo: I don't know. I don't know what to think. 
This looks like a row but it hasn't even the virtue of being 
a new row. We've had it before several times, and just 
lately more than ever. It's inevitable that the more 
successful I become, the more people will run after me. 
I don't believe in their friendship, and I don't take them 
seriously, but I enjoy them. Probably a damn sight 
more than they enjoy me! I enjoy the whole thing. 
I've worked hard for it all my life. Let them all come! 
They'll drop me, all right, when they're tired of me; but 
maybe I shall get tired first. 

Gilda: I hope you will. 

Leo: What does it matter, anyhow? 

Gilda: It matters a lot. 

Leo: I don't see why. 



Gilda: They waste your time, these ridiculous celeb- 
rity hunters, and they sap your vitality. 

Leo: Let them! I've got lots of time and lots of 

Gilda: That's bravado. You're far too much of an 
artist to mean that, really. 

Leo: I'm far too much of an artist to be taken in by 
the old cliche of shutting out the world and living for my 
art alone. There's just as much bunk in that as there is 
in a cocktail party at the Ritz. 

Gilda: Something's gone. Don't you see? 

Leo: Of course something's gone. Something always 
goes. The whole business of living is a process of read- 
justments. What are you mourning for? The dear old 
careless days of the Quartier Latin, when Laife was 

Gilda: Don't be such a fool! 

Leo: Let's dress up poor, and go back and pretend, 
shall we? 

Gilda: Why not? That, at least, would be a definite 

Leo : Certainly, it would. Standing over the skeletons 
of our past delights and trying to kick them to life again. 
That wouldn't be wasting time, would it? 

Gilda: We needn't go back, or dress up poor, in order 

to pretend. We can pretend here. Among all this 

(She kicks the newspapers.) With the trumpets blowing 
and the flags flying and the telephone ringing, we can still 
pretend. We can pretend that we're happy. 

She goes out of the room as the telephone rings. 
Leo stands looking after her for a moment, and then 
goes to the desk. 



Leo (at telephone): Hallo! — What? — Yes, speaking. — 

Very well, I'll hold the line 

Miss Hodge comes in from the hall. 

Miss Hodge: There's a gentleman to see you. He 
says he's from the Evening Standard. 

Leo : Show him in. 

Miss Hodge goes out. 

Leo (at telephone): Hallo— yes! Hallo there, how are 
you? Of course, for hours, reading the papers. — Yes, all 

of them marvellous 

Mr. Birbeck enters. Leo motions him to sit down. 
I'm so glad — it was thrilling, wasn't it? — Did he really? 
That's grand! — Nonsense, it's always nice to hear things 
like that— of course, I'd love to. — Black tie or white tie — 
no tie at all! That'll be much more comfortable. — 
Good-bye. — What? — No, really? So soon? You'll know 
it by heart. — Yes, rather. — Good-bye ! 

He hangs up the telephone. 
I'm so sorry. 

Mr. Birbeck (shaking hands) : I'm from the Standard. 

Leo: Yes, I know. 

Mr. Birbeck: I've brought a photographer. I hope 
you don't mind? We thought a little study of you in 
your own home would be novel and interesting. 

Leo (bitterly) : I'm sure it would. 

Mr. BntBECK: First of all, may I ask you a few ques- 

Leo: Certainly, go ahead. Cigarette? 

Mr. Birbeck : No, thank you. I'm not a smoker myself. 

Leo (taking one and lighting it) : I am. 

Mr. Birbeck (producing notebook): This is not your 
first play, is it? 



Leo: No, my seventh. Two of them have been pro- 
duced in London within the last three years. 

Mr. Birbeck: What were their names? 

Leo: The Swift River and Mrs. Draper. 

Mr. Birbeck: How do you spell "Mrs. Draper"? 

Leo: The usual way — m rs draper. 

Mr. Birbeck: Do you care for sport? 

Leo: Yes, madly. 

Mr. Birbeck: Which particular sport do you like 

Leo: No particular one. I'm crazy about them all. 

Mr. Birbeck: I see. 
He writes. 
Do you believe the talkies will kill the theatre? 

Leo: No. I think they'll kill the talkies. 

Mr. Birbeck (laughing): That's very good, that is! 
It really is. 

Leo: Not as good as all that. 

Mr. Birbeck: There's a question that interests our 
lady readers very much 

Leo: What's that? 

Mr. Birbeck: What is your opinion of the modern 

Leo (without flinching): Downright; straightforward; 

Mr. Birbeck: You approve of the modern girl, then? 

Leo : I didn't say so. 

Mr. Birbeck: What are your ideas on marriage? 

Leo: Garbled. 

Mr. Birbeck: That's good, that is. Very good! 

Leo (rising) : Don't put it, though — don't write down 
any of this interview; come and see me again. 



Mr. Birbeck: Why, what's wrong? 

Leo: The whole thing's wrong, Mr. 

Mr. Birbeck: Birbeck. 

Leo: Mr. Birbeck. The whole business is grotesque. 
Don't you see how grotesque it is? 

Mr. Birbeck: I'm afraid I don't understand. 

Leo: Don't you ever feel sick inside when you have to 
ask those questions? 

Mr. Birbeck: No, why should I? 

Leo: Will you do me a very great favour? 

Mr. Birbeck: What is it? 

Leo: Call in your photographer. Photograph me — 
and leave me alone. 

Mr. Birbeck (of ended) : Certainly. 

Leo: Don't think me rude. I'm just rather tired, 
that's all. 

Mr. Birbeck: I quite understand. 

He goes out into the hall and returns in a moment 
with the photographer. 
Where do you think would be best? 

Leo: Wherever you say. 

Mr. Birbeck: Just here? 

Leo (taking his stand just in front of the desk) : All 

Mr. Birbeck: Perhaps I could come and see you 
again sometime when you're not so tired? 

Leo: Yes, of course. Telephone me. 

Mr. Birbeck: Tomorrow? 

Leo: Yes, tomorrow. 

Mr. Birbeck: About eleven? 

Leo: Yes. About eleven. 

Mr. Birbeck: Now, then — are you ready? 



Gilda comes out of the bedroom, dressed for the 
street. She goes over to Leo and puts her arms round 
his neck. 

Gilda: I'm going to do a little shopping {Then 

softly) : Sorry, darling 

Leo: All right, sweet. 

Gilda goes out. 
Mr. Birbeck: Just a little smile! 
Leo smiles as the curtain falls. 

end of act two: scene i 


Scene II 

ACT TWO: Scene II 

The scene is the same, a few days later. 

It is evening, and Miss Hodge has just finished 
laying a cold supper on a bridge table in front of the 
sofa. She regards it thoughtfully for a moment, and 
then goes to the bedroom door. 

Miss Hodge : Your supper's all ready, ma'am. 
Gilda {in bedroom): Thank you, Miss Hodge. I 
shan't want you any more tonight, then. 

Miss Hodge goes off into the kitchen. Gilda 
comes out of the bedroom. She is wearing pyjamas and 
a dressing gown. She goes over to the desk, on which 
there is a parcel of books. She undoes the parcel and 
scrutinizes the books, humming happily to herself as 
she does so. Miss Hodge reenters from the kitchen, 
this time in her coat and hat. 
Gilda: Hello, Miss Hodge! I thought you'd gone. 
Miss Hodge: I was just putting on me 'at. I think 
you'll find everything you want there. 
Gilda: I'm sure I shall. Thank you. 
Miss Hodge: Not at all; it's a pleasure, I'm sure. 
Gilda: Oh, Miss Hodge, do you think it would be a 
good idea if Mr. Mercure and I got married? 
Miss Hodge : I thought you was married. 
Gilda : Oh, I'd forgotten. We never told you, did we? 



Miss Hodge: You certainly didn't. 

Gilda: Well, we're not. 

Miss Hodge {thoughtfully) : Oh, I see. 

Gilda: Are you shocked? 

Miss Hodge : It's no affair of mine, ma'am — miss. 

Gilda: What do you think about marriage? 

Miss Hodge: Not very much, miss, having had a 
basinful meself , in a manner of speaking. 

Gilda (surprised): What! 

Miss Hodge: Hodge is my maiden name. I took it 
back in — in disgust, if you know what I mean. 

Gilda: Have you been married much, then? 

Miss Hodge: Twice, all told. 

Gilda : Where are your husbands now? 

Miss Hodge: One's dead, and the other's in New- 

Gilda (smiling) : Oh. 

Miss Hodge: Well, I'll be getting 'ome now, if there's 
nothing else you require? 

Gilda: No, there's nothing else, thank you. Good- 

Miss Hodge: Good-night, miss. 

Miss Hodge goes out. Gilda laughs to herself; 
pours herself out a glass of Sherry from the bottle on the 
table, and settles onto the sofa with the books. Otto 
comes in from the hall and stands in the doorway, 
looking at her. 

Otto: Hallo, Gilda! 

Gilda (turning sharply and staring at him): It's not 

Otto (coming into the room) : Here we are again! 

Gilda: Oh, Otto! 



Otto : Are you pleased? 

Gilda: I don't quite know yet. 

Otto : Make up your mind, there's a dear. 

Gilda: I'll try. * 

Otto : Where's Leo? 

Gilda: Away. He went away this afternoon. 

Otto: This seems a very nice flat. 

Gilda: It is. You can see right across to the other 
side of the square on a clear day. 

Otto: I've only just arrived. 

Gilda: Where from? 

Otto: New York. I had an exhibition there. 

Gilda: Was it successful? 

Otto: Very, thank you. 

Gilda: I've decided quite definitely now: I'm ecstati- 
cally pleased to see you. 

Otto: That's lovely. 

Gilda: How did you get in? 

Otto: I met an odd-looking woman going out. She 
opened the door for me. 

Gilda: That was Miss Hodge. She's had two hus- 

Otto: I once met a woman who'd had four husbands. 

Gilda: Aren't you going to take off your hat and coat? 

Otto : Don't you like them? 

Gilda: Enormously. It was foolish of me to ask 
whether your exhibition was successful. I can see it was ! 
Your whole personality reeks of it. 

Otto {taking of his hat and coat) : I'm disappointed 
that Leo isn't here. 

Gilda: He'll be back on Monday. 

Otto: How is he, please? 



Gilda: Awfully well. 

Otto: Oh, dear! Oh, dear, oh, dear — I feel very 
funny! I feel as if I were going to cry, and I don't want 
to cry a bit. 

Gilda: Let's both cry, just a little! 

Otto: Darling, darling Gilda! 

They rush into each other's arms and hug each other. 

Otto: It's all, all right now, isn't it? 

Gilda: More than all right. 

Otto: I was silly to stay away so long, wasn't I? 

Gilda: That was what Leo meant the other morning 
when he said he knew what was missing. 

Otto: Me? 

Gilda: Of course. 

Otto: I'm terribly glad he said that. 

Gilda: We were having a row, trying to find out why 
we weren't quite as happy as we should be. 

Otto: Do you have many rows? 

Gilda: Quite a lot, every now and then. 

Otto: As many as we used to? 

Gilda: About the same. There's a bit of trouble on 
at the moment, really. He's getting too successful and 
sought after. I'm worried about him. 

Otto: You needn't be. It won't touch him — inside. 

Gilda: I'm afraid, all the same; they're all so shrill 
and foolish, clacking at him. 

Otto: I read about the play in the train. It's a riot, 
isn't it? 

Gilda: Capacity — every performance. 

Otto: Is it good? 

Gilda: Yes, I think so. 

Otto: Only think so? 



Gilda: Three scenes are first rate, especially the last 
act. The beginning of the second act drags a bit, and 
most of the first act's too facile — you know what I mean 
— he flips along with easy swift dialogue, but doesn't 
go deep enough. It's all very well played. 

Otto: We'll go on Monday night. 

Gilda: Will you stay, now that you've come back? 

Otto: I expect so. It depends on Leo. 

Gilda: Oh! 

Otto: He may not want me to. 

Gilda: I think he'll want you to, even more than I do! 

Otto: Why do you say that? 

Gilda: I don't know. It came up suddenly, like a 

Otto: I feel perfectly cozy about the whole business 
now, you know — no trailing ends of resentment — I'm 
clear and clean, a newly washed lamb, bleating for 

Gilda: Would you like some Sherry? 

Otto: Very much indeed. 

Gilda: Here, have my glass. I'll get another. We'll 
need another plate as well and a knife and fork. 

Otto {looking over the table): Cold ham, salad; what's 
that blob in the pie dish? 

Gilda: Cold rice pudding. Delicious! You can have 
jam with it and cream. 

Otto {without enthusiasm) : How glorious. 

Gilda runs into the kitchen and returns in a moment 
with plate and knife and fork, etc. 

Gilda: Here we are! 

Otto: I expected more grandeur. 

Gilda: Butlers and footmen? 



Otto: Yes, just a few. Concealed lighting, too. 
There's something a thought sordid about that lamp over 
there. Did you decorate this room? 

Gilda: You know perfectly well I didn't. 

Otto: Well, you should. 

Gilda: Do you want anything stronger to drink than 

Otto: No, Sherry's all right. It's gentle and refined, 
and imparts a discreet glow. Of course, I'm used to 
having biscuits with it. 

Gilda: There aren't any biscuits. 

Otto {magnificently) : It doesn't matter. 

Gilda: Do sit down, darling. 

Otto {drawing up a chair): What delicious-looking 
ham! Where did you get it? 

Gilda: I have it specially sent from Scotland. 

Otto: Why Scotland? 

Gilda: It lives there when it's alive. 

Otto: A bonny country, Scotland, if all I've heard is 
correct, what with the banshees wailing and the four- 
leaved shamrock. 

Gilda: That's Ireland, dear. 

Otto: Never mind. The same wistful dampness dis- 
tinguishes them both. 

Gilda {helping him to ham) : I knew you'd arrive soon. 

Otto {helping her to salad): Where's Leo gone, ex- 

Gilda: Smart house party in Hampshire. Bridge, 
backgammon, several novelists, and a squash court that 
nobody uses. 

Otto: The Decoration of Life — that's what that is. 

Gilda: Slightly out of drawing, but terribly amusing. 



Otto: It won't last long. Don't worry. 

Gilda: Tell me where you've been, please, and what 
you've seen and what you've done. Is your painting 
still good, or has it deteriorated just a little? I'm suspi- 
cious, you see! Dreadfully suspicious of people liking 
things too much — things that matter, I mean. There's 
too much enthusiasm for Art going on nowadays. It 
smears out the highlights. 

Otto : You're certainly in a state, aren't you? 

Gilda: Yes, I am. And it's getting worse. 

Otto: Turbulent! Downright turbulent. 

Gilda: There isn't any mustard. 

Otto: Never mind: I don't want any, do you? 

Gilda: I don't know, really. I'm always a little un- 
decided about mustard. 

Otto: It might pep up the rice pudding! 

Gilda: Strange, isn't it? This going on where we left 

Otto: Not quite where we left off, thank God. 

Gilda: Wasn't it horrible? 

Otto: I was tortured with regrets for a long while. I 
felt I ought to have knocked Leo down. 

Gilda: I'm awfully glad you didn't. He hates being 
knocked down. 

Otto: Then, of course, he might have retaliated and 
knocked me down ! 

Gilda: You're bigger than he is. 

Otto: He's more wiry. He once held me in the bath 
for twenty minutes while he poured cold water over me. 

Gilda (laughing): Yes, I know! 

Otto (laughing too): Oh, of course — that's what you 
were both laughing at when I came in that day, wasn't it? 

[6 3 \ 


Gilda {weakly) : Yes, it was very, very unfortunate. 

Otto: An unkind trick of Fate's, to have dropped it 
into your minds just then. 

Gilda: It made a picture, you see — an unbearably 
comic picture — we were both terribly strained and un- 
happy; our nerves were stretched like elastic, and that 
snapped it. 

Otto: I think that upset me more than anything. 

Gilda: You might have known it wasn't you we were 
laughing at. Not you, yourself. 

Otto: It's exactly a hundred and twenty-seven years 
ago today. 

Gilda: A hundred and twenty-eight. 

Otto: We've grown up since then. 

Gilda: I do hope so, just a little. 

Otto: I went away on a freight boat, you know. I 
went for thousands of miles and I was very unhappy in- 

Gilda: And very seasick, I should think. 

Otto: Only the first few days. 

Gilda: Not steadily? 

Otto: As steadily as one can be seasick. 

Gilda: Do you know a lot about ships now? 

Otto: Not a thing. The whole business still puzzles 
me dreadfully. I know about starboard and port, of 
course, and all the different bells; but no one has yet been 
able to explain to me satisfactorily why, the first moment 
a rough sea occurs, the whole thing doesn't turn upside 

Gilda: Were you frightened? 

Otto: Petrified, but I got used to it. 

Gilda: Was it an English ship? 



Otto: No, Norwegian. I can say, "How do you do?" 
in Norwegian. 

Gilda: We must get to know some Norwegian people 
immediately, so that you can say "How do you do?" to 
them. — Where are your pictures? 

Otto: Not unpacked yet. They're at the Carlton. 

Gilda: The Carlton! You haven't gone "grand" on 
me, too, have you? 

Otto: I have, indeed. I've got several commissions 
to do portraits here in London. The very best people. 
I only paint the very best people. 

Gilda {almost snappily) : They have such interesting 
faces, haven't they? 

Otto (reproachfully) : I don't paint their faces, Gilda. 
Fourth dimensional, that's what I am. I paint their 

Gilda: You'd have to be eighth dimensional and clair- 
voyant to find them. 

Otto: I'm grieved to see that Leo has done little or 
nothing towards taming your proud revolutionary spirit. 

Gilda: He's inflamed it. 

Otto: I know what's wrong with you, my sweet. 
You're just the concentrated essence of "Love Among 
the Artists." 

Gilda: I think that was unkind. 

Otto: If you were creative yourself you'd understand 
better. As it is, you know a lot. You know an awful lot. 
Your critical faculty is first rate. I'd rather have your 
opinion on paintings or books or plays than anyone else's 
I know. But you're liable to get sidetracked if you're 
not careful. Life is for living first and foremost. Even 
for artists, life is for living. Remember that. 



Gilda: You have grown up, haven't you? 

Otto: In the beginning, when we were all in Paris, 
everything was really very much easier to manage, even 
our emotional problems. Leo and I were both struggling, 
a single line was in both our minds leading to success — 
that's what we were planning for, working like dogs for! 
You helped us both, jostling us onto the line again when 
we slipped off, and warming us when we were cold in dis- 
couragement. You picked on me to love a little bit more, 
because you decided, rightly then, that I was the weaker. 
They were very happy, those days, and glamour will 
always cling to them in our memories. But don't be 
misled by them; don't make the mistake of trying to re- 
capture the spirit of them. That's dead, along with our 
early loves and dreams and quarrels, and all the rest of 
the foolishness. 

Gilda: I think I want to cry again. 

Otto: There's nothing like a good cry. 

Gilda: You can't blame me for hating success, when 
it changes all the — the things I love best. 

Otto: Things would have changed, anyhow. It 
isn't only success that does it — it's time and experience 
andjnew circumstances. 

Gilda {bitterly): Was it the Norwegians that taught 
you this still wisdom? They must be wonderful people. 

Otto {gently): No, I was alone. I just sat quietly 
and looked at everything. 

Gilda: I see. 

Otto: Would you fancy a little more salad? 

Gilda: No, thank you. 

Otto: Then it's high time we started on the cold rice 



Gilda: I see one thing clearly. 

Otto {smiling): What? 

Gild a: I'm not needed any more. 

Otto : I thought you were going to say that. 

Gilda: It's what you meant me to say, isn't it? 

Otto : We shall always need each other, all three of us. 

Gilda: Nonsense! The survival of the fittest — that's 
what counts. 

Otto : Do have some rice pudding? 

Gilda: To hell with you and the rice pudding! 

Otto {helping himself): Hard words. Hard, cruel 

Gilda: You're so sure of yourself, aren't you? You're 
both so sure of yourselves, you and Leo. Getting what 
you want must be terribly gratifying! 

Otto {unruffled) : It is. 

Gilda {suddenly smiling): Do you remember how I 
used to rail and roar against being feminine? 

Otto: Yes, dear. You were very noisy about the 
whole business. 

Gilda: I'm suddenly glad about it for the first time. 
Do you want some jam with that? 

Otto: What sort of jam is it? 

Gilda: Strawberry, I think. 

Otto: Of course, I'm used to having dark plum with 
rice pudding, but I'll make do with strawberry. 

Gilda: I'll get it! 

She goes into the kitchen. The telephone rings. 
Otto answers it. 

Otto {at telephone): Hallo! — Hallo — yes, speaking. — 
Didn't you recognize my voice? — How absurd! It must 
be a bad line. — Dinner on the seventh? Yes, I should 



love to. — You don't mind if I come as Marie Antoinette, 
do you? I have to go to a fancy dress ball. — Where? 
Oh, my aunt is giving it — yes, in a bad house, she runs 
a whole chain of them, you know! — Thank you so 

He hangs up the telephone. 

Gilda {reentering): I put it into a glass dish. Who 
was that? 

Otto: Somebody called Brevell, Lady Brevell. She 
wants Leo to dine on the seventh. I accepted. 

Gilda: Good! You can both go. I'm sure she'd be 

Otto {sitting down again) : What! No cream? 

Gilda: It was a delusion about the cream. I thought 
there was a lot, but there isn't a drop. 

Otto: I think you've improved in looks really with the 
passing of the years. 

Gilda: How sweet, Otto! I'm so pleased. 

Otto: Your skin, for instance. Your skin's much 

Gilda: It ought to be, I've been taking a lot of trouble 
with it. 

Otto: What sort of trouble? 

Gilda: Oh, just having it pushed and rubbed and 
slapped about. 

Otto: Funny, how much in love with you I was! 

Gilda f We'll have a good laugh about it when you've 
finished your pudding. 

Otto: What's happened to Ernest? 

Gilda: He's been away, too, a long way away; he 
went on a world cruise with a lot of old ladies in straw 



Otto: Dear little Ernest! 

Gilda: I saw him a few weeks ago, then he went back 
to Paris. 

Otto: An odd life. Sterile, don't you think? 

Gilda: You've certainly emancipated yourself into a 
grand complacency. 

Otto: If you're unkind to me, I shall go back to the 

Gilda: Have you got a suite, or just a common bed- 
room and bath? 

Otto: Darling, I do love you so very much! 

Gilda: A nice comfortable love, without heart throbs. 

Otto: Are you trying to lure me to your wanton bed? 

Gilda: What would you do if I did? 

Otto: Probably enjoy it very much. 

Gilda: I doubt if I should. 

Otto: Have I changed so dreadfully? 

Gilda (maliciously) : It isn't you that's changed — it's 
time and experience and new circumstances! 

Otto (rising): I've finished my supper. It wasn't 
very good but it sufficed. I should now like a whiskey 
and soda. 

Gilda: It's in that thing over there. 

Otto (getting it out) : It is a thing, isn't it? Do you 
want one? 

Gilda: No, I don't think so. 

Otto: Just a little one? 

Gilda: All right. 

Otto (pouring them out): If we were bored, we could 
always go to the pictures, couldn't we? 

Gilda: It's too late; we shouldn't get in to anything 
that's worth seeing. 


Otto: Oh, how disappointing! How very, very, very 

Gilda: Personally, I'm enjoying myself here. 

Otto (handing her her drink) : Are you, indeed? 

Gilda: Yes. This measured skirmishing is delightful. 

Otto: Be careful, won't you? I do implore you to be 

Gilda: I never was. Why should I start now? 

Otto (raising his glass) : I salute your spirit of defiance, 
my dearest. 

Gilda (raising her glass) : Yours, too. 

Otto (shaking his head): A bad business; a very bad 

Gilda: Love among the artists. 

Otto : Love among anybody. 

Gilda: Perhaps not love, exactly. Something a little 
below it and a little above it, but something terribly 

Otto: Meaning this? 

Gilda: Of course. What else? 

Otto: We should have principles to hang on to, you 
know. This floating about without principles is so very 

Gilda: Life is for living. 

Otto: You accused me of being too sure. It's you 
who are sure now. 

Gilda: Sure of what? 

Otto : Sure that I want you. 

Gilda: Don't you? 

Otto: Of course I do. 

Gilda: Keep away, then, a minute, and let me look at 
you all over again. 



Otto: I used to sit on the top deck of that freighter, 
and shut my eyes and see you standing there, just like 
you are now. 

Gilda : Good old romance, bobbing up again and wrap- 
ping up our crudities in a few veils! 

Otto: Shut up! Don't talk like that. 

Gilda: I'm not nearly as afraid as you are. 

Otto : You haven't got so much to lose. 

Gilda: How do you know? You've forgotten every- 
thing about me — the real me. That dim figure you con- 
jured up under your damned tropic stars was an illusion, 
a misty ghost, scratched out of a few memories, inac- 
curate, untrue — nothing to do with me in any way. This 
is me, now! Take a good look and see if you can tell 
what I have to lose in the game, or to win, either — 
perhaps you can tell that, too! Can you? Can 

Otto : You look so terribly sweet when you're angry. 

Gilda: Another illusion. I'm not sweet. 

Otto: Those were only love words. You mustn't be 
so crushing. How are we to conduct this revivalist 
meeting without love words? 

Gilda: Let's keep them under control. 

Otto: I warn you it's going to be very difficult. 
You've worked yourself up into a frenzy of sophistication. 
You've decided on being calculating and disillusioned 
and brazen, even slightly coarse over the affair. That's 
all very well, but how long is it going to last? That's 
what I ask myself. How long is it going to last — this 
old wanton mood of yours? 

Gilda {breaking down) : Don't — don't laugh at me. 

Otto: I must— a little. 



Gilda: It's an unfair advantage. You've both got it, 
and you both use it against me mercilessly. 

Otto: Laugh, too; it's not so serious, really. 

Gilda: If I once started, I should never stop. That's 
a warning. 

Otto: Duly registered. 

Gilda: What are we going to do about Leo? 

Otto: Wait and see what he's going to do about us. 

Gilda: Haven't you got any shame at all? 

Otto: Just about as much as you have. 

Gilda: The whole thing's degrading, completely and 
utterly degrading. 

Otto: Only when measured up against other people's 

Gilda: Why should we flatter ourselves that we're so 
tremendously different? 

Otto : Flattery doesn't enter into it. We are different. 
Our lives are diametrically opposed to ordinary social 
conventions; and it's no use grabbing at those conven- 
tions to hold us up when we find we're in deep water. 
We've jilted them and eliminated them, and we've got to 
find our own solutions for our own peculiar moral prob- 

Gilda: Very glib, very glib indeed, and very plausible. 

Otto: It's true. There's no sense in stamping about 
and saying how degrading it all is. Of course it's de- 
grading; according to a certain code, the whole situation's 
degrading and always has been. The Methodists 
wouldn't approve of us, and the Catholics wouldn't 
either; and the Evangelists and the Episcopalians and 
the Anglicans and the Christian Scientists — I don't sup- 
pose even the Polynesian Islanders would think very 



highly of us, but they wouldn't mind quite so much, 
being so far away. They could all club together — the 
whole lot of them — and say with perfect truth, according 
to their lights, that we were loose-living, irreligious, un- 
moral degenerates, couldn't they? 

Gilda {meekly) : Yes, Otto, I expect so. 

Otto: But the whole point is, it's none of their busi- 
ness. We're not doing any harm to anyone else. We're 
not peppering the world with illegitimate children. The 
only people we could possibly mess up are ourselves, and 
that's our lookout. It's no use you trying to decide 
which you love best, Leo or me, because you don't know! 
At the moment, it's me, because you've been living with 
Leo for a long time and I've been away. A gay, ironic 
chance threw the three of us together and tied our lives 
into a tight knot at the outset. To deny it would be 
ridiculous, and to unravel it impossible. Therefore, the 
only thing left is to enjoy it thoroughly, every rich mo- 
ment of it, every thrilling second 

Gilda: Come off your soap box, and stop ranting! 

Otto : I want to make love to you very badly indeed, 
please! I've been lonely for a long time without you; 
now I've come back, and I'm not going to be lonely any 
more. Believe me, loneliness is a mug's game. 

Gilda: The whole thing's a mug's game. 

Otto: You're infinitely lovely to me, darling, and so 
very necessary. The circle has swung round, and it's 
my turn again — that's only fair, isn't it? 

Gilda: I — I suppose so. 

Otto: If you didn't want me, it would be different, but 
you do — you do, my dearest dear! — I can see it in your 
eyes. You want me every bit as much as I want you! 



Gilda {with a little smile) : Yes, every bit. 
Otto: This is a moment to remember, all right. 
Scribble it onto your heart; a flicker of ecstasy sand- 
wiched between yesterday and tomorrow — something to 
be recaptured in the future without illusion, perfect in 
itself! Don't let's forget this — whatever else happens, 
don't let's forget this. 

Gilda: How easy it all seems in this light. 
Otto: What small perverse meanness in you forbids 
you to walk round the sofa to me? 

Gilda: I couldn't move, if the house was on fire! 
Otto: I believe it is. To hell with the sofa! 

He vaults over it and takes her in his arms. They 
stand holding each other closely and gradually subside 
onto the sofa. 
Otto {kissing her) : Hvordan staar det til! 
Gilda {blissfully) : What's that, darling? 
Otto: "How do you do?" in Norwegian. 
The curtain slowly falls. 




Scene III 


The scene is the same. It is about ten-thirty the next 

As the curtain rises, Miss Hodge shows Ernest 
Friedman into the room. 

Miss Hodge: I will tell madam — miss — madam 
you're here, sir. 
Ernest: Why so much confusion, Miss Hodge? 
Miss Hodge : I was only told last night, sir, that — er, 

well — that — er 

Ernest: Oh, I see. 

Miss Hodge : It's a bit muddling at first, in a manner 
of speaking, but I shall get used to it. 
Ernest : I'm sure you will. 

Miss Hodge goes into the bedroom, and returns 
again in a moment with very pursed-up lips. 
Miss Hodge (coldly) : She will be in in a moment, sir. 
Miss Hodge goes into the kitchen and slams the 
door. Ernest looks after her in some astonishment. 

Gilda enters. She is fully dressed, wearing a hat 
and coat. 
Gilda (with tremendous gaiety) : Ernest ! What a sur- 
Ernest: What's the matter with Miss Hodge? 
Gilda: The matter with her? I don't know— I 
haven't examined her. 



Ernest : It was foolish of you to tell her you and Leo 
weren't married. 

Gilda: It slipped out; I'd forgotten she didn't know. 
Have you come from Paris? 

Ernest: Yes, last night. There's been a slight argu- 
ment going on for weeks. 

Gilda: Argument? What kind of an argument? 

Ernest: One of those Holbein arguments. 

Gilda: Somebody said it wasn't, I suppose? 

Ernest: Yes, that's it. 

Gilda: Was it? 

Ernest: In my humble opinion, yes. 

Gilda: Did your humble opinion settle it? 

Ernest: I hope so. 

Gilda: Admirable. Quiet, sure, perfect conviction — 
absolutely admirable. 

Ernest: Thank you, Gilda. Don't imagine that the 
irony in your tone escaped me. 

Gilda: That wasn't irony; it was envy. 

Ernest: It's high time you stopped envying me. 

Gilda: I don't think I ever shall. 

Ernest: How's Leo? 

Gilda: Not very well. 

Ernest: What's wrong with him? 

Gilda: Tummy; he's had an awful night. He didn't 
close an eye until about five, but he's fast asleep now. 

Ernest: I'm sorry. I wanted to say good-bye to you 

Gilda: Good-bye? 

Ernest: I'm going back to Paris this afternoon and 
sailing for America on Wednesday. 

Gilda: You do flip about, don't you, Ernest? 



Ernest: Not any more. I've decided to live in New- 
York permanently. IVe been angling for a particular 
penthouse for years and now I've got it. 

Gilda: How lovely. Is it very high? 

Ernest: About thirty floors. 

Gilda {gaily) : Do you want a housekeeper? 

Ernest: Yes, badly. Will you come? 

Gilda: Perhaps. 
She laughs. 

Ernest: You seem very gay this morning. 

Gilda: I'm always gay on Sundays. There's some- 
thing intoxicating about Sunday in London. 

Ernest: It's excellent about the play. I read all the 

Gilda: Yes, it's grand. It ought to run for years and 
years and years and years and years! 

Ernest: I suppose Leo's delighted. 

Gilda: Absolutely hysterical. I think that's what's 
upset his stomach. He was always oversensitive, you 
know; even in Paris in the old days he used to roll about 
in agony at the least encouragement, don't you remem- 

Ernest: No, I can't say that I do. 

Gilda: That's because you're getting a bit "gaga," 
darling! You've sold too many pictures and made too 
much money and travelled too much. That world 
cruise was a fatal mistake. I thought so at the time, but 
I didn't say anything about it, because I didn't want to 
upset you. But going round in a troupe, with all those 
tatty old girls, must have been very, very bad for you. 
I expected every day to get a wire from somewhere or 
other saying you'd died of something or other. 



Ernest: Do stop, you're making me giddy. 

Gilda: Perhaps you'd like a little Sherry? 

Ernest: No, thank you. 

Gilda: It's very good Sherry; dry as a bone! 

Ernest: You seem to me to be in a very strange 
mood, Gilda. 

Gilda: I've never felt better in my life. Ups and 
downs! My life is one long convulsive sequence of Ups 
and Downs. This is an Up — at least, I think it is. 

Ernest: You're sure it's not nervous collapse? 

Gilda: I never thought of that; it's a very good idea. 
I shall have a nervous collapse! 

Ernest: Will you ever change, I wonder? Will you 
ever change into a quieter, more rational person? 

Gilda: Why should I? 

Ernest: What's wrong now? 

Gilda: Wrong! What could be wrong? Everything's 
right. Righter than it's ever been before. God's in His 
heaven, all's right with the world — I always thought 
that was a remarkably silly statement, didn't you? 

Ernest: Unreasoning optimism is always slightly 
silly, but it's a great comfort to, at least, three quarters 
of the human race. 

Gilda: The human race is a let-down, Ernest; a bad, 
bad let-down! I'm disgusted with it. It thinks it's 
progressed but it hasn't; it thinks it's risen above the 
primeval slime but it hasn't — it's still wallowing in it! 
It's still clinging to us, clinging to our hair and our eyes 
and our souls. We've invented a few small things that 
make noises, but we haven't invented one big thing that 
creates quiet, endless peaceful quiet — something to pull 
over us like a gigantic eiderdown; something to deaden 



the sound of our emotional yellings and screechings and 
suffocate our psychological confusions 

Ernest {weakly) : I think, perhaps, I would like a glass 
of Sherry after all. 

Gilda (going to the "thing"): It's all right, Ernest, 
don't be frightened! You're always a safety valve for 
me. I think, during the last few years, I've screamed at 
you more than anyone else in the world. 

She hands him the bottle. 
Here you are. 

Ernest (looking at it) : This is brandy. 

Gilda: So it is. How stupid of me. 
She finds the Sherry and two glasses. 
Here we are! 

Ernest (putting the brandy bottle on the desk) : I'm not 
sure that I find it very comfortable, being a safety valve! 

Gilda: It's the penalty you pay for being sweet and 
sympathetic, and very old indeed. 

Ernest (indignantly) : I'm not very old indeed! 

Gilda: Only in wisdom and experience, darling. 
She pours out Sherry for them both. 
Here's to you, Ernest, and me, too! 
They both drink. 

Ernest: Now, then? 

Gilda: Now then, what? 

Ernest: Out with it! 

Gilda: Take my advice, my dear; run like a stag — be 
fleet of foot! Beat it! 

Ernest: Why? 

Gilda: I'm a lone woman. I'm unattached. I'm free. 

Ernest: Oh! Oh, are you, really! 

Gilda: I'm cured. I'm not a prisoner any more. 



I've let myself out. This is a day of great exaltation for 

Ernest: I'm sure I'm delighted to hear it. 

Gilda (with the suspicion of a catch in her voice) : I'm 
not needed any more — I'm going. 

Ernest : Where are you going? 

Gilda: I haven't the faintest idea. The world is 
wide, far too wide and round, too. I can scamper round 
and round it, like a white rat in a cage! 

Ernest: That will be very tiring. 

Gilda: Not so tiring as staying still; at least, I might 
preserve the illusion that I'm getting somewhere. 

Ernest (prosaically) : Have you had a row with Leo? 

Gilda: No; I haven't had a row with anyone. I've 
just seen the light suddenly. I saw it last night. The 
survival of the fittest, that's the light. Didn't you 

Ernest: I think, perhaps, I should understand better 
if you spoke in Russian. 

Gilda: Or Norwegian. There's a fascinating language 
for you ! 

Ernest : I believe there is a very nice nursing home in 
Manchester Street. 

Gilda (taking a note out of her bag) : You see this? 

Ernest: Yes. 

Gilda: It's for Leo. 

Ernest : To read when he wakes up? 

Gilda: Yes. If he ever wakes up. 

Ernest: You haven't poisoned him, have you? 

Gilda: No; but he's nearly poisoned me! An insidi- 
ous, dreary sort of poison, a lymphatic poison, turning me 
slowly into a cow. 



Ernest {laughing) : My poor Gilda! 

Gilda (propping it up against the brandy bottle) : I shall 
leave it here. 

Ernest: Pity there isn't a pin cushion. 

Gilda: I expect you think I'm being overdramatic? 

Ernest: Not any more than usual. 

Gilda: Well, I'm not. I'm perfectly calm inside. 
Cold as steel. 

Ernest: Can one be exalted and cold as steel at the 
same time? 

Gilda : I can. I can be lots of things at the same time ; 
it becomes a great bore after a while. In the future, I 
intend to be only one thing. 

Ernest: That being ? 

Gilda: Myself, Ernest. My unadulterated self! My- 
self, without hangings, without trimmings, unencumbered 
by the winding tendrils of other people's demands 

Ernest: That was very nicely put. 

Gilda: You can laugh at me as much as you like. I 
give everybody free permission to laugh at me. I can 
laugh at myself, too, now — for the first time, and enjoy it. 

Ernest: Can you? 

Gilda: Yes; isn't it lovely? 

Ernest: I congratulate you. 

Gilda: I'm glad you suddenly appeared this morning 
to say good-bye — very appropriate! It's a day of good- 
byes — the air's thick with them. You have a tremen- 
dous sense of the "right moment," Ernest. It's wonder- 
ful. You pop up like a genie out of a bottle, just to 
be in at the death! You really ought to have been a 

Ernest: Are you really serious? Are you really going? 



Gilda: I've never been more serious in my life. Of 
course I'm going — I've got to learn a few things while 
there's still time — who knows, I might even learn to be 
an artist! Just think of that! And even if I can't quite 
achieve such — such splendour, there are other lessons for 
me. There's the lesson of paddling my own canoe, for 
instance — not just weighing down somebody else's and 
imagining I'm steering it! 

Ernest : Oh, I see. I see it all now. 

Gilda: No, you don't — not all; just a little, perhaps, 
but not all. 

Ernest: Where are you going, really? 

Gilda: First, to a hotel, to make a few plans. 

Ernest: You can take over my room at the Carlton, 
if you like. I'm leaving today. 

Gilda {laughing hysterically): The Carlton! Oh, no, 
Ernest, not the Carlton! 

Ernest: Why, what's the matter with it? 

Gilda: It's too big and pink and grand for me. I 
want a decayed hotel; gentle and sad and a little bit 
under the weather. 

Ernest: And afterwards? 

Gilda: Paris — no, not Paris — Berlin. I'm very at- 
tached to Berlin. 

Ernest: Are you sure you're wise? This is rather — 
well, rather drastic, isn't it? 

Gilda {quietly) : I'm quite sure. 

Ernest: I won't try to dissuade you, then. 

Gilda: No, don't. It wouldn't do any good. I'm 
quite determined. 

Ernest: I have an instinctive distrust of sudden im« 


Gilda: I'll fool you yet! I'll make you eat your 
damned skepticism! 
Ernest (smiling): Sorry! 
Gilda: Good-bye, Ernest. I'm going now. 
Ernest: You'll be very lonely. Aren't you afraid? 
Gilda: I can bear it. I've been lonely before. 
Ernest: Not for a long while. 

Gilda: Recently, quite — quite recently. Loneliness 
doesn't necessarily mean being by yourself. 
Ernest (gently) : Very well, dear. 
Gilda (suddenly flinging her arms round his neck): 
You're very tender and very kind and I'm tremendously 
grateful to you! Come on, let's go. 
Ernest: Haven't you got any bags or anything? 
Gilda: I've packed a dressing case with all my im- 
mediate wants; I shall get everything else new, brand 


She goes quietly to the bedroom door and gets a 
dressing case, which she has left just behind it, 
I'll drop you off at the Carlton, and take your taxi on. 
Ernest: Is he asleep? 
Gilda: Fast asleep. Come on! 

They go out into the hall. Suddenly Gilda is 
heard to say, "Just a moment, I've forgotten some- 

She comes quickly back into the room, takes another 
letter out of her bag and props it up on the desk. Then 
she goes out. 

The front door is heard to slam very loudly. 
After a moment or two the telephone rings; it goes on 
ringing until Miss Hodge comes out of the kitchen 
and answers it. 



Miss Hodge (at telephone) : 'Alio, 'alio ! — What? — No, 
Vs not — Vs away. — All right! — Not at all. 

She slams down the telephone and goes back into the 
kitchen. Otto comes out of the bedroom. He is wear- 
ing a dressing gown and pyjamas belonging to Leo, 
and looks very sleepy. He finds a cigarette and lights 
it; then goes to the kitchen door. 
Otto (calling): Gilda! — Gilda, where are you? 

Miss Hodge appears. Her face grim with disap- 
Miss Hodge: She's gone h'out. 
Otto (startled): Oh! Did she say where? 
Miss Hodge: She did not. 
Otto: What's the time? 
Miss Hodge: H'eleven. 

Otto (pleasantly): We met last night on the door- 
step; do you remember? 
Miss Hodge: Yes, I remember all right. 
Otto: It was very kind of you to let me in. 
Miss Hodge: I didn't know you was going to stay all 
Otto: I wasn't sure, myself. 
Miss Hodge: A pretty thing! 
Otto: I beg your pardon? 

Miss Hodge: I said, "A pretty thing" and I meant 
"A pretty thing" — nice goings on! 
Otto (amiably) : Very nice, thank you. 
Miss Hodge : I'm a respectable woman. 
Otto : Never mind. 

Miss Hodge : I don't mind a little fun every now and 
then among friends, but I do draw the line at looseness! 
Otto: You're making a mistake, Miss — Miss ? 



Miss Hodge: Me name's 'Odge. 
Otto: You're making a mistake, Miss Odge. 
Miss Hodge: 'Ow do you mean? 
Otto: You are making a mistake in daring to disap- 
prove of something that has nothing to do with you what- 
Miss Hodge (astounded): Well, I never! 
Otto : Please go away, and mind your own business. 
Miss Hodge, with a gasp of fury, flounces off 

into the kitchen. Otto comes down to the sofa and lies 

on it with his back towards the door, blowing smoke 

rings into the air. 

The door opens and Leo creeps into the room. He 

can only see the cigarette smoke, Otto's head being 

hidden by the cushion. 
Leo: Hallo, darling! I couldn't bear it any more, so 
I've come back. 
Otto (sitting up slowly) : Hello, Leo. 
Leo: You! 

Otto: Yes. I couldn't bear it any longer, either, so 
I've come back. 
Leo: Where have you come from? 
Otto: New York. 
Leo : When — when did you arrive? 
Otto: Last night. 

Leo : Why — why aren't you dressed? 
Otto : I've only just got up. 
Leo : You stayed here? 
Otto: Yes. 

Leo (slowly): With Gilda? 
Otto: Yes. 
Leo: I see. 


Otto: It wouldn't be any use lying, would it? Pre- 
tending I didn't? 

Leo: No use at all. 

Otto: I'm not even sorry, Leo, except for hurting you. 

Leo: Where is Gilda? 

Otto : She's gone out. 

Leo: Out! Why? Where's she gone to? 

Otto: I don't know. 

Leo (turning away) : How vile of you ! How unspeak- 
ably vile of you both! 

Otto: It was inevitable. 

Leo (contemptuously): Inevitable! 

Otto: I arrived unexpectedly; you were away; Gilda 
was alone. I love her; I've always loved her — I've never 
stopped for a minute, and she loves me, too. 

Leo: What about me? 

Otto: I told you I was sorry about hurting you. 

Leo : Gilda loves me. 

Otto: I never said she didn't. 

Leo (hopelessly) : What are we to do? What are we to 
do now? 

Otto: Do you know, I really haven't the faintest 

Leo: You're laughing inside. You're thoroughly 
damned well pleased with yourself, aren't you? 

Otto: I don't know. I don't know that either. 

Leo (savagely) : You are! I can see it in your eyes — so 
much triumph — such a sweet revenge! 

Otto : It wasn't anything to do with revenge. 

Leo: It was. Of course it was — secretly thought out, 
planned for ages — infinitely mean ! 

Otto: Shut up! And don't talk such nonsense. 


Leo: Why did you do it, then? Why did you come 
back and break everything up for me? 

Otto: I came back to see you both. It was a sur- 

Leo: A rather cruel surprise, and brilliantly successful. 
You should be very happy. 

Otto (sadly) : Should I? 

Leo: Perhaps I should be happy, too; you've set me 
free from something. 

Otto: What? 

Leo (haltingly): The — feeling I had for you — some- 
thing very deep, I imagined it was, but it couldn't have 
been, could it — now that it has died so easily. 

Otto: I said all that to you in Paris. Do you remem- 
ber? I thought it was true then, just as you think it's 
true now. 

Leo: It is true. 

Otto: Oh, no, it isn't. 

Leo: Do you honestly believe I could ever look at you 
again, as a real friend? 

Otto: Until the day you die. 

Leo: Shut up! It's too utterly beastly — the whole 

Otto: It's certainly very, very uncomfortable. 

Leo: Is Gilda going to leave me? To go away with 

Otto: Do you want her to? 

Leo: Yes, I suppose so, now. 

Otto: We didn't make any arrangement or plans. 

Leo: I came back too soon. You could have gone 
away and left a note for me — that would have been nice 
and easy for you, wouldn't it? 


Otto: Perhaps it would, really. I don't know that I 
should have done it, though. 

Leo: Why not? 

Otto: If I had, I shouldn't have seen you at all, and I 
wanted to see you very much. 

Leo: You even wanted to see me, hating you like this? 
Very touching! 

Otto: You're not hating me nearly as much as you 
think you are. You're hating the situation : that's quite 

Leo: You flatter yourself . 

Otto: No. I'm speaking from experience. You for- 
get, I've been through just what you're going through 
now. I thought I hated you with all my heart and soul, 
and the force of that hatred swept me away onto the 
high seas, too far out of reach to be able to come back 
when I discovered the truth. 

Leo: The truth! 

Otto: That no one of us was more to blame than the 
other. We've made our own circumstances, you and 
Gilda and me, and we've bloody well got to put up with 

Leo : I wish I could aspire to such a sublime God's-eye 

Otto: You will — in time — when your acids have 
calmed down. 

Leo: I'd like so very much not to be able to 
feel anything at all for a little. I'm desperately 

Otto: You want a change. 

Leo: It seems as if I'm going to get one, whether I 
want it or not. 



Otto {laughing): Oh, Leo, you really are very, very 
tender ! 

Leo: Don't laugh! How dare you laugh! How can 
you laugh ! 

Otto : It's a good joke. A magnificent joke. 

Leo {bitterly) : A pity Gilda chose just that moment to 
go out, we could all have enjoyed it together. 

Otto : Like we did before? 

Leo: Yes, like we did before. 

Otto: And like we shall again. 

Leo {vehemently): No, never again — never! 

Otto : I wonder. 

The telephone rings. Leo goes over mechanically 
to answer it; he lifts up the receiver, and as he does so he 
catches sight of the two letters propped up against the 
brandy bottle. He stares at them and slowly lets the 
receiver drop onto the desk. 

Leo {very quietly) : Otto. 

Otto: What is it? 

Leo: Look. 

Otto comes over to the desk, and they both stand 
staring at the letters. 

Otto: Gilda! 

Leo: Of course. 

Otto: She's gone! She's escaped! 

Leo: Funny word to use, "escaped." 

Otto : That's what she's done, all the same, escaped 

Leo : The joke is becoming richer. 

Otto : Escaped from both of us. 

Leo : We'd better open them, I suppose. 

Otto {slowly) : Yes — yes, I suppose we had. 

They both open the letters, in silence, and read them. 



Leo {after a pause) : What does yours say? 

Otto {reading): " Good-bye, my clever little dear! 
Thank you for the keys of the city." 

Leo: That's what mine says. 

Otto: I wonder where she's gone? 

Leo: I don't see that that matters much. 

Otto: One up to Gilda! 

Leo: What does she mean, "keys of the city"? 

Otto: A lot of things. 

Leo: I feel rather sick. 

Otto: Have some Sherry? 

Leo: That's brandy. 

Otto: Better still. 

He pours out a glass and hands it to Leo. 

Leo {quietly) : Thank you. 

Otto {pouring one out for himself) : I feel a little sick, 

Leo: Do you think she'll come back? 

Otto: No. 

Leo: She will — she must — she must come back! 

Otto: She won't. Not for a long time. 

Leo {drinking his brandy) : It's all my fault, really. 

Otto {drinking his) : Is it? 

Leo : Yes. I've, unfortunately, turned out to be suc- 
cessful. Gilda doesn't care for successful people. 

Otto: I wonder how much we've lost, with the 

Leo : A lot. I think, practically everything now. 

Otto {thoughtfully): Love among the artists. Very 
difficult, too difficult. 

Leo : Do you think we could find her? 

Otto: No. 


Leo: We could try. 

Otto: Do you want to? 

Leo: Of course. 

Otto: Why? What would be the use? 

Leo: She might explain a little — a little more clearly. 

Otto: What good would that do? We know why she's 
gone perfectly well. 

Leo: Because she doesn't want us any more. 

Otto: Because she thinks she doesn't want us any 

Leo: I suppose that's as good a reason as any. 

Otto: Quite. 

Leo: All the same, I should like to see her just once- 
just to find out, really, in so many words 

Otto (with sudden fury): So many words! That's 
what's wrong with us! So many words — too many 
words, masses and masses of words, spewed about until 
we're choked with them. We've argued and probed and 
dragged our entrails out in front of one another for years! 
We've explained away the sea and the stars and life and 
death and our own peace of mind! I'm sick of this end- 
less game of three-handed, spiritual ping-pong — this 
battling of our little egos in one another's faces! Sick to 
death of it ! Gilda's made a supreme gesture and got out. 
Good luck to her, I say! Good luck to the old girl — she 
knows her onions! 

Otto refills his glass and drains it at a gulp. 

Leo: You'll get drunk, swilling down all that brandy 
on an empty stomach. 

Otto: Why not! What else is there to do? Here, 
have some more as well. 

He refills Leo's glass and hands it to him, 



Leo: All right! Here goes. 
He drains his glass. 
Now, we start fair. 

He refills both their glasses. 

Otto (raising his glass): Gilda! (He drains it.) 

Leo (doing the same): Gilda! (He drains it.) 

Otto: That's better, isn't it? Much, much better. 

Leo: Excellent. We shall be sick as dogs! 

Otto : Good for our livers. 

Leo: Good for our immortal souls. 
He refills the glasses, and raises his. 
Our Immortal Souls! 

Otto (raising his): Our Immortal Souls! 
They both drain them to the last drop. 

Leo: I might have known it! 

Otto: What? 

Leo: That there was going to be a break. Everything 
was running too smoothly, too well. I was enjoying all 
the small things too much. 

Otto: There's no harm in enjoying the small things. 

Leo: Gilda didn't want me to. 

Otto : I know. 

Leo: Did she tell you so? 

Otto : Yes, she said she was uneasy. 

Leo : She might have had a little faith in me, I think. 
I haven't got this far just to be sidetracked by a few 

Otto: That's what I said to her; I said you wouldn't 
be touched, inside. 

Leo : How about you? 

Otto : Catching up, Leo ! Popular portraits at popu- 
lar prices. 



Leo : Good work or bad work? 

Otto: Good. An occasional compromise, but es- 
sentials all right. 

Leo (with a glint in his eye) : Let's make the most of 
the whole business, shall we? Let's be photographed 
and interviewed and pointed at in restaurants! Let's 
play the game for what it's worth, secretaries and fur 
coats and de-luxe suites on transatlantic liners at mini- 
mum rates! Don't let's allow one shabby perquisite to 
slip through our ringers! It's what we dreamed many 
years ago and now it's within our reach. Let's cash in, 
Otto, and see how much we lose by it. 

He refills both glasses and hands one to Otto. 
Come on, my boy! 

He raises his glass. 
Success in twenty lessons! Each one more bitter than 
the last ! More and better Success ! Louder and funnier 

They both drain their glasses. 

They put down their glasses, gasping slightly. 

Otto (agreeably): It takes the breath away a bit, 
doesn't it? 

Leo: How astonished our insides must be — all that 
brandy hurtling down suddenly! 

Otto: On Sunday, too. 

Leo: We ought to know more about our insides, Otto. 
We ought to know why everything does everything. 

Otto: Machines! That's what we are, really — all of 
us! I can't help feeling a little discouraged about it 
every now and then. 

Leo: Sheer sentimentality! You shouldn't feel dis- 
couraged at all; you should be proud. 



Otto: I don't see anything to be proud about. 

Leo: That's because you don't understand; because 
you're still chained to stale illusions. Science dispels 
illusions; you ought to be proud to be living in a scientific 
age. You ought to be proud to know that you're a 
minute cog in the vast process of human life. 

Otto: I don't like to think I'm only a minute cog — it 
makes me sort of sad. 

Leo: The time for dreaming is over, Otto. 

Otto: Never! I'll never consent to that. Never, as 
long as I live! How do you know that science isn't a 
dream, too? A monstrous, gigantic hoax? 

Leo: How could it be? It proves everything. 

Otto: What does it prove? Answer me that! 

Leo : Don't be silly, Otto. You must try not to be silly. 

Otto {bitterly) : A few facts, that's all. A few tawdry 
facts torn from the universe and dressed up in termino- 
logical abstractions! 

Leo: Science is our only hope, the only hope for 
humanity! We've wallowed in false mysticism for cen- 
turies; we've fought and suffered and died for foolish 
beliefs, which science has proved to be as ephemeral as 
smoke. Now is the moment to open our eyes fearlessly 
and look at the truth! 

Otto: What is the truth? 

Leo {irritably): It's no use talking to you — you just 
won't try to grasp anything! You're content to go on 
being a romantic clod until the end of your days. 

Otto {incensed): What about you? What about the 
plays you write? Turgid with romance; sodden with 
true love; rotten with nostalgia! 

Leo {with dignity): There's no necessity to be rude 



about my work— that's quite separate, and completely 
beside the point. 

Otto: Well, it oughtn't to be. It ought to be abso- 
lutely in accord with your cold, incisive, scientific view- 
point. If you're a writer it's your duty to write what 
you think. If you don't you're a cheat — a cheat and a 

Leo {loftily): Impartial discussion is one thing, Otto. 
Personal bickering is another. I think you should learn 
to distinguish between the two. 

Otto: Let's have some more brandy. 

Leo: That would be completely idiotic. . 

Otto: Let's be completely idiotic! 

Leo: Very well. 

They both refill their glasses and drain them in si- 

Otto: There's a certain furtive delight in doing some- 
thing consciously that you know perfectly well is thor- 
oughly contemptible. 

Leo : There is, indeed. 

Otto: There isn't much more left. Shall we finish it? 

Leo: Certainly. 

Otto refills both glasses. 

Otto (handing Leo his) : Now what? 

Leo: Now what what? 

Otto (giggling slightly) : Don't keep on saying, what, 
what, what — it sounds ridiculous ! 

Leo: I wanted to know what you meant by "Now 

Otto: Now what shall we drink to? 

Leo (also giggling) : Let's not drink to anything — let's 
just drink! 



Otto : All right. 
He drinks. 

Leo (also drinking): Beautiful! 

Otto : If Gilda came in now she'd be surprised all right, 
wouldn't she? 

Leo: She'd be so surprised, she'd fall right over back- 

Otto: So should we. 

They both laugh immoderately at this. 

Leo {^wiping his eyes)'. Oh, dear! Oh, dear, oh, dear, 
how silly! How very, very silly. 

Otto (with sudden change of mood) : She'll never come 
back. Never. 

Leo: Yes, she will — when we're very, very old, she'll 
suddenly come in — in a Bath chair! 

Otto (sullenly) : Damn fool. 

Leo (with slight belligerence) : Who's a damn fool? 

Otto: You are. So am I. We both are. We were 
both damn fools in the first place, ever to have anything 
to do with her. 

Leo (admiringly): You're awfully strong, Otto! 
Much, much stronger than you used to be. 

Otto: I've been all over the world; I've roughed it — 
that's what's made me strong. Every man ought to 
rough it. 

Leo: That's the trouble with civilized life — it makes 
you soft. I've been thinking that for a long time. I've 
been watching myself getting softer and softer and softer 
— it's awful! 

Otto: You'd soon be all right if you got away from all 
this muck. 

Leo: Yes, I know, but how? 



Otto (putting his arm around his shoulders) : Get on a 
ship, Leo — never mind where it's going! Just get on a 
ship — a small ship. 

Leo: How small? 

Otto: Very small indeed; a freighter. 

Leo: Is that what you did? 

Otto: Yes. 

Leo: Then I will. Where do very small ships sail 

Otto: Everywhere — Tilbury, Hamburg, Havre 

Leo: I'm free! I've suddenly realized it. I'm 

Otto: So am I. 

Leo: We ought to drink to that, Otto. It's something 
worth drinking to. Freedom's been lost to us for a long, 
long time and now we've found it again ! Freedom from 
people and things and softness! We really ought to 
drink to it. 

Otto : There isn't any more brandy. 

Leo : What's that over there? 

Otto: Where? 

Leo: On the thing. 

Otto (going to it) : Sherry. 

Leo: What's the matter with Sherry? 

Otto : All right. 

He brings over the bottle and fills their glasses. 

Leo (raising his) : Freedom! 

Otto (doing the same) : Freedom^. 
They both drink. 

Leo: Very insipid. 

Otto: Tastes like brown paper. 

Leo: I've never tasted brown paper. 



Otto: Neither have I. 

They roar with laughter. 

Leo: Sherry's a very ludicrous word, isn't it, when 
you begin to analyze it? 

Otto: Any word's ludicrous if you stare at it long 
enough. Look at "macaroni." 

Leo: That's Italian; that doesn't count. 

Otto: Well, " rigmarole" then, and " neophyte" and 

Leo: And "wimple" — wimple's the word that gets me 

Otto: What is a wimple? 

Leo: A sort of mediaeval megaphone, made of linen. 
Guinevere had one. 

Otto: What did she do with it? 

Leo {patiently) : Wore it, of course. What did you think 
she did with it? 

Otto : She might have blown down it. 

Leo (with slight irritation) : Anyhow, it doesn't matter, 
does it? 

Otto (agreeably) : Not in the least. It couldn't mat- 
ter less. I always thought Guinevere was tedious, 
wimple or no wimple. 

Leo: I'm beginning to float a little, aren't you? 

Otto: Just leaving the ground. Give me time! I'm 
just leaving the ground 

Leo: Better have some more Sherry. 

Otto: I'm afraid it isn't very good Sherry. 

Leo (scrutinizing the bottle): It ought to be good; it's 
real old Armadildo. 

Otto: Perhaps we haven't given it a fair chance. 
He holds out his glass; Leo refills it and his own. 



Leo (raising his glass): Apres moi le deluge! 

Otto: Apres both of us the deluge! 
They drain their glasses. 

Leo: I think I shall sit down now. I'm so terribly 
sick of standing up. 

Otto: Human beings were never meant to stand up, 
in the first place. It's all been a grave mistake. 
They both sit on the sofa. 

Leo: All what? 

Otto: All this stamping about. 

Leo: I feel ever so much happier. I don't feel angry 
with you or with Gilda or with anybody ! I feel sort of at 
peace, if you know what I mean. 

Otto (putting his arm around him): Yes, I know — I 

Leo: Keys of the city, indeed! 

Otto : Lot of damned nonsense. 

Leo: Too much sense of drama, flouncing off like 

Otto: We've all got too much sense of drama, but we 
won't have any more — from now onwards, reason and 
realism and clarity of vision. 

Leo: What? 

Otto (very loudly) : I said " Clarity of vision." 

Leo: I wouldn't have believed I could ever feel like 
this again — so still and calm, like a deep, deep pool. 

Otto: Me, too — a deep pool, surrounded with cool 

green rushes, with the wind rustling through them 

This flight of fancy is disturbed by a faint hiccup. 

Leo (resting his head on Otto's shoulder): Will you 
forgive me — for — for everything? 

Otto (emotionally) : It's I who should ask you that! 


Leo: I'm glad Gilda's gone, really — she was very 
wearisome sometimes. I shall miss her, though. 

Otto: We shall both miss her. 

Leo : She's the only really intelligent woman I've ever 

Otto: Brilliant! 

Leo: She's done a tremendous lot for us, Otto. I 
wonder how much we should have achieved without her? 

Otto: Very little, I'm afraid. Terribly little. 

Leo: And now she's gone because she doesn't want us 
any more. 

Otto: I think she thinks we don't want her any more. 

Leo: But we do, Otto — we do 

Otto: We shall always want her, always, always, 

Leo {miserably) : We shall get over it in time, I expect, 
but it will take years. 

Otto: I'm going to hate those years. I'm going to 
hate every minute of them. 

Leo: So am I. 

Otto: Thank God for each other, anyhow! 

Leo: That's true. We'll get along, somehow — (his 
voice breaks) — together 

Otto (struggling with his tears) : Together- 

Leo (giving way to his, and breaking down completely) : 

But we're going to be awfully — awfully — lonely 

They both sob hopelessly on each other's shoulders 
as the curtain slowly falls. 



Scene I 


Nearly two years have elapsed since Act Two. 

The scene is Ernest Friedman's penthouse in 
New York. It is an exquisite apartment, luxuriously 
furnished. Up stage, on the Right, are three windows 
opening onto a balcony. These are on an angle; below 
them are double doors leading into the hall. A staircase 
climbs up the Left-hand side of the room, leading 
through a curtained archway to the bedrooms, etc. 
Below the staircase there is a door leading to the serv- 
ants 1 quarters. 

When the curtain rises it is about eleven-thirty on a 
summer night. The windows are wide open and be- 
yond the terrace can be seen the many lights of the city. 
There is a table set with drinks and sandwiches, with, 
below it, an enormous sofa. 

Voices are heard in the hall, and Gilda enters 
with Grace Torrence and Henry and Helen 
Carver. The Carvers are a comparatively young 
married couple, wealthy and well dressed. Grace 
Torrence is slightly older, a typical Europeanized 
New York matron. Gilda is elaborately and beauti- 
fully gowned. Her manner has changed a good deal. 
She is much more still and sure than before. A certain 
amount of vitality has gone from her, but, in its place, 
there is an aloof poise quite in keeping with her dress 
and surroundings. > 



Gilda: Who'd like a highball? 

Grace: We all would. We all need it! 

Gilda: People are wrong when they say that the opera 
isn't what it used to be. It is what it used to be — that's 
what's wrong with it! 

Henry (going for the drinks) : Never again ! 

Gilda: Is there enough ice there, Henry? 

Henry: Yes, heaps. 

Helen (wandering out onto the terrace): This is the 
most wonderful view I've ever seen! 

Henry: Next to ours. 

Helen: I like this better; you can see more of the 

Grace: You did all this, I suppose, Gilda? 

Gilda: Not all of it; just a few extras. Ernest laid 
the foundations. 

Grace: When's he coming back? 

Gilda: Tomorrow. 

Grace (wandering about the room) : It's lovely. 

Gilda: I'd forgotten you hadn't been here before. 

Henry: Here, Grace. (He gives her a drink.) 

Gilda (taking one) : Thanks, Henry. 

Henry: Helen, do you want yours out there? 

Helen: No, I'll come in for it. 

She comes in, takes her drink, and sits down on the 

Grace (stopping before an antique chair): Where did 
you get this? 

Gilda: Italy. We were motoring to Siena, and we 
stopped at a little village for lunch and there it was — just 
waiting to be grabbed. 



Grace: You ought to open a shop; with your reputa- 
tion you'd make a packet! 

Gilda: This is my shop, really. I make quite enough, 
one way and another. 

Helen: But the things in this room aren't for sale, are 

Gilda: All except the pictures. Those are Ernest's. 

Grace {laughing): Then they are for sale! 

Gilda: Perhaps. At a price. 

Henry: And, oh boy, what a price! {To Helen): 
What was the name of that one he sold Dad? 

Helen: I don't think it had a name. 

Henry: The name of the artist, I mean. 

Gilda: Matisse. 

Henry: Well, all I can say is, it ought to have been a 
double Matisse for that money! 

Gilda {smiling) : Eleven thousand dollars, wasn't it? 

Henry: It was. 

Gilda {sweetly) : Your father was very lucky, but then 
he always has been, hasn't he? 

Grace: Bow, Henry! Or fall down dead — one or the 

Gilda: Do you want to see over the rest of it, Grace? 

Grace: I do, indeed! I'm taking mental notes, and if 
any of them come out right, I'll send you a handsome 

Gilda: Terrace first? Very nice line in balcony furni- 
ture, swing chairs, striped awnings, shrubs in pots 

Grace: I'd rather die than go near the terrace — it 
makes me giddy from here. 

Gilda: I love being high up. 

Helen: So do I— the higher the better! 



Grace: What floor is this? 

Gilda: Thirtieth. 

Grace: I was caught by fire once on the sixth floor; I 
had to be hauled down a ladder in my nightgown — since 
then I've always lived on the ground level. 

Helen: What about burglars? 

Grace: I'd rather have fifty burglars than one fire. 
What would you do here if there was a fire, Gilda? If it 
started down below, in the elevator shaft or something? 

Gilda (pointing towards the servants' door) : Very nice 
line in fire escapes just through that door; perfectly 
equipped, commodious — there's even a wide enough 
balustrade to slide down. 

Grace: One day there'll be an earthquake in this 
city, then all you high livers will come tumbling down ! 

Henry: In that case, I'd rather be here than on the 

Gilda: Come and see the bedrooms. 

Grace: Higher still? 

Gilda: Yes, higher still. You two will be all right, 
won't you? 

Helen: Of course. 

Gilda (leading the way upstairs): Help yourself to 
another drink, Henry. 

Henry: Thanks. I will. 

Gilda and Grace disappear through the archway. 

Henry (at table) : Do you want another? 

Helen: I haven't finished this one yet. 

Henry: Promise me one thing, Helen? 

Helen: What? 

Henry: That you'll never become a professional 



Helen: Why? 

Henry: I've never met one yet that wasn't hard as 
nails, and, my God, I've met hundreds! 

Helen: Do you think Gilda's hard? 

Henry: Hard! Look at her eyes. Look at the way 
she's piloting old Grace round the apartment. Look at 
the way she snapped me up over Dad's picture! 

Helen: You were rather awful about it. 

Henry : So I should think ! Eleven thousand bucks for 
that daub ! I've only found three people who could tell me 
what it was supposed to be, and they all told me different. 

Helen: Art's not in your line, Henry. 

Henry: You bet your sweet life it isn't — not at that 

Helen: I like modern painting. I think it's thrilling. 

Henry: Bunk. 

Helen (with superiority): That's what everybody 
always says about new things. Look at Wagner. 

Henry: What's Wagner got to do with it? 

Helen: When first his music came out everyone said 
it was terrible. 

Henry: That's jake with me! 

Helen (laughing patronizingly) : It's silly to laugh at 
things just because you don't understand them. 

Henry: You've been around too much lately, Helen; 
you ought to stay home more. 

Helen: If it hadn't been for Gilda, I don't know what 
I'd have done all winter. 

Henry: If it hadn't been for us, I don't know what 
she'd have done all winter! You could have fixed our 
apartment just as well as she did. What do we want 
with all that Spanish junk? 

. \ I0 9\ 


Helen: It isn't junk; it's beautiful! She's got the 
most wonderful taste, everybody knows she has. 

Henry: It's a racket, Helen! The whole thing is a 

Helen: I don't know what's the matter with you to- 

Henry: The evening's been a flop. The opera was 
lousy, and now we've been dragged up here instead of 
going to the Casino. Just because Gilda's sniffed a bit of 

There is a ring at the door bell. 

Helen: Do you really think she only got Grace up 
here to sell her something? 

Henry: I do. 

Helen: Oh, Henry! 

Henry: Don't you? 

Helen: No, of course I don't. They've got a lot of 
money; they don't need to go on like that. v 

Henry: That's how they made the money. Ernest's 
been palming off pictures on people for years. 

Helen: I don't see why he shouldn't, if they're willing 
to buy them. After all, everybody sells something; I 


The door bell rings again. 

Henry : Don't they keep any servants? 

Helen: I expect they've gone to bed. 

Henry: I'd better answer the door, I suppose. 

Helen: Yes, I think you had. 

Henry goes of. Helen does up her face. There 
is the sound of voices in the hall. Henry reenters, 
followed by Otto and Leo, both attired in very faultless 
evening dress. 



Henry: Mrs. Friedman's upstairs — I'll call her. 

Leo: No, don't trouble to do that; she'll be down 
soon, won't she? 

Henry: Yes, she's only showing Mrs. Torrence over 
the apartment. 

Otto: Torrence — Torrence! How very odd! I won- 
der if that's the same Mrs. Torrence we met in the 

Leo : Very possibly. 

Henry: This is my wife, Mrs. Carver. I'm afraid I 
don't know your names. 

Leo: My name is Mercure. 

Helen (shaking hands) : How do you do, Mr. Mercure? 

Otto : And mine is Sylvus. 

Helen (shaking hands again): How do you do, Mr. 

Leo (turning abruptly to Henry and shaking his hand) : 
How do you do, Mr. Carver? 

Otto (doing the same with some violence) : How do you 
do, Mr. Carver? 

Henry: Would you care for a drink? 

Leo: Passionately. 

Henry (coldly) : They're over there. Help yourself. 

Helen (while they are helping themselves) : Are you old 
friends of Mrs. Friedman's? 

Otto (over his shoulder): Yes, we lived with her for 

Helen (gasping slightly): Oh! 

There is silence for a moment. Otto and Leo 
settle themselves comfortably in chairs. 

Leo (raising his glass) : Here's to you, Mr. and Mrs. 



Otto (also raising his glass) : Mr. and Mrs. Carver. 

Henry (automatically raising his glass): Here's 

There is another silence. 

Leo (conversationally): I once knew a man called 
Carver in Sumatra. 

Helen: Really? 

Leo : He had one of the longest beards I've ever seen. 

Otto (quickly) : That was Mr. Eidelbaum. 

Leo: So it was! How stupid of me. 

Otto (apologetically): We've travelled so much, you 
know, we sometimes get a little muddled. 

Helen (weakly) : Yes, I expect you do. 

Leo : Have you been married long? 

Henry: Two years. 

Leo : Oh dear Oh dear Oh dear Oh dear Oh dear. 

Henry: Why? What of it? 

Otto : There's something strangely and deeply moving 
about young love, Mr. and Mrs. Carver. 

Leo : Youth at the helm. 

Otto: Guiding the little fragile barque of happiness 
down the river of life. Unthinking, unknowing, unaware 
of the perils that lie in wait for you, the sudden tempests, 
the sharp jagged rocks beneath the surface. Are you 
never afraid? 

Henry: I don't see anything to be afraid of. 

Leo (fondly) : Foolish headstrong boy. 

Otto : Have you any children? 

Henry (sharply) : No, we have not. 

Leo : That's what's wrong with this century. If you 
were living in Renaissance Italy you'd have been married 
at fourteen and by now you'd have masses of children 



and they'd be fashioning things of great beauty. 
Wouldn't they, Otto? 

Otto: Yes, Leo, they would. 

Leo: There you are, you see! 

Otto: The tragedy of the whole situation lies in the 
fact that you don't care, you don't care a fig, do you? 

Helen {stiffly): I really don't understand what you 
mean. .,,,,.,-t- 

Conversation again languishes. 

Leo: You've been to Chuquicamata, I suppose? 

Henry: Where? 

Leo: Chuquicamata. It's a copper mine in Chile. 

Henry: No, we haven't. Why? 

Leo (loftily): It doesn't matter. It's most unimpor- 

Henry: Why do you ask? 

Leo (magnanimously): Please don't say any more 
about it — it's perfectly all right. 

Henry (with irritation) : What are you talking about? 

Leo: Chuquicamata. 

Otto (gently) : A copper mine in Chile. 

Helen (to relieve the tension) : It's a very funny name. 
She giggles nervously. 

Leo (coldly) : Do you think so? 

Helen (persevering): Is it — is it an interesting place? 

Leo: I really^ don't remember; I haven't been there 
since I was two. 

Otto: I've never been there at all. 

Helen (subsiding): Oh! 

Leo (after another pause): Is Mrs. Torrence a nice 

Henry: Nice! Yes, very nice. 



Leo (with a sigh of relief) : I'm so glad. 
Otto: One can't be too careful, you know — people are 
so deceptive. 

Leo (grandiloquently): It's all a question of masks, 
really; brittle, painted masks. We all wear them as a 
form of protection; modern life forces us to. We must 
have some means of shielding our timid, shrinking souls 
from the glare of civilization. 

Otto: Be careful, Leo. Remember how you upset 
yourself in Mombasa! 
Leo: That was fish. 

Helen and Henry exchange startled glances. 

Gilda and Grace reappear through the archway and 

come down the stairs. Otto and Leo and Henry 

rise to their feet. 

Gilda (as they come down) : . . . and the terrace is 

lovely in the summer, because, as it goes right round, 

there's always somewhere cool to sit 

She reaches the foot of the stairs and sees Otto and 
Leo. She puts her hand onto the balustrade just for a 
second, to steady herself; then she speaks. Her voice is 
perfectly calm. 
Gilda: Hallo! 
Leo: Hallo, Gilda. 
Otto : We've come back. 

Gilda (well under control) : Yes — yes, I see you have. 
This is Mrs. Torrence. Grace, these are two old friends 
of mine — Leo Mercure and Otto Sylvus. 

Grace (shaking hands) : Oh — how do you do. 
Leo (shaking hands) : You must forgive our clothes but 
we've only just come off a freight boat. 
Otto: A Dutch freight boat. The food was delicious. 



Gilda: I see you both have drinks. Henry, mix me 
one, will you? 

Henry: Certainly. 

Gilda (in an empty voice) : This is the most delightful 
surprise. (To Grace): Do you know, I haven't seen 
either of them for nearly two years. 

Grace: Gilda hds been snowing me this perfectly 
glorious apartment. Don't you think it's lovely? 

Otto (looking around): Artistically too careful, but 
professionally superb. 

Gilda (laughing lightly): Behave yourself, Otto! 

Leo: Where's darling little Ernest? 

Gilda: Chicago. 

Henry: Here's your drink, Gilda. 
He hands it to her. 

Gilda: Thank you. 

Grace (sinking into a chair) : Where did you come from 
on your freight boat, Mr. Mercure? 

Leo: Manila. 

Otto: It was very hot in Manila. 

Leo: It was also very hot in Singapore. 

Gilda (drily) : It always is, I believe. 

Otto: It was cooler in Hong Kong; and in Vladivostok 
it was downright cold! 

Leo: We had to wear mittens. 

]Eelen: Was all this a pleasure trip? 

Leo: Life is a pleasure trip, Mrs. Carver; a Cheap 

Otto: That was very beautifully put, Leo. I shall 
always remember it. 

Henry and Helen's faces set in disapproval. 
Grace looks slightly bewildered. 



Grace (with a little social laugh): Well, life certainly 
hasn't been a cheap excursion for me! Every day it gets 
more and more expensive. Everyone here has had the 
most dreadful winter. I was in Europe, of course, but 
they were feeling it there, too, very badly. Paris, par- 
ticularly. Paris seemed to have lost its vitality; it used 
to be much more gay, somehow 

Otto : I once had a flat in Paris. It was really more a 
studio than a flat, but I had to leave it. 

Grace: They pulled it down, I suppose. They're 
pulling down everything in Paris, now. 

Otto: They pulled it down to the ground; it was a 
small edifice and crumbled easily. 

Grace: It's sad, isn't it, to think of places where one 
has lived not being there any more? 

Leo: I remember a friend of mine called Mrs. Purdy 
being very upset once when her house in Dorset fell into 
the sea. 

Grace (startled): How terrible! 

Leo: Fortunately Mr. Purdy happened to be in it at 
the time. 
^^Otto: In my case, of course, it was more like an earth- 
quake than anything else, a small but thorough earth- 
quake with the room trembling and the chandelier swing- 
ing and the ground opening at my feet. 

Grace: Funny. We were talking about earthquakes 
just now. 

Leo: I've never been able to understand why the 
Japanese are such a cheerful race. All that hissing and 
grinning on the brink of destruction. 

Otto: The Japanese don't mind destruction a bit; 
they like it, it's part of their upbringing. They're 



delighted with death. Look at the way they kill them- 
selves on the most whimsical of pretexts. 

Leo: I always thought Madame Butterfly was over- 

Otto: She should have gone out into the world and 
achieved an austere independence. Just like you, Gilda. 

Gilda: Don't talk nonsense. (To Grace): They 
both talk the most absurd nonsense; they always have, 
ever since I've known them. You mustn't pay any 
attention to them. y 

Otto: Don't undermine our social poise, Gilda, you — 
who have so much! 

Gilda (sharply) : Your social poise is nonexistent. 

Leo: We have a veneer, though; it's taken us years to 
acquire; don't scratch it with your sharp witty nails — 

Everybody jumps slightly at the word "darling." 

Gilda: Have you written any new plays, Leo? Have 
you painted any new pictures, Otto? You must both 
come to lunch one day and tell me all about yourselves. 

Leo: That would be delightful. Just the three of us. 

Otto: Should old acquaintance be forgot. 

Leo : Close harmony. 

Gilda: You'll have to forgive me if I'm not quite as 
helpful to you as I used to be. My critical faculties 
aren't as strong as they once were. I've grown away, 
you see. 

Leo: How far have you grown away, my dear love? 
How lonely are you in your little box so high above the 
arena? Don't you ever feel that you want to come down 
in the cheap seats again, nearer to the blood and the 
sand and the warm smells, nearer to Life and Death? 



Gilda: You've changed, Leo. You used to be more 

Otto: You've changed, too, but we expected that. 

Helen (social poise well to the fore) : It's funny how 
people alter; only the other day in the Colony a boy that 
I used to know when he was at Yale walked up to my 
table, and I didn't recognize him! 

Leo: Just fancy! 

Otto: Do you know, I have an excellent memory for 
names, but I cannot for the life of me remember faces. 
Sometimes I look at Leo suddenly and haven't the faint- 
est idea who he is. 

Leo (quickly): I can remember things, though, very 
clearly, and past conversations and small trivial incidents. 
Some trick of the light, some slight movement, can cause 
a whole flock of irrelevant memories to tumble into my 
mind — just unattached fragments, which might have 
been significant once but which don't seem to mean any- 
thing any more. Trees in a quiet London square, for 
instance — a green evening dress, with earrings to match — 
two notes propped up against a brandy bottle — odd, 
isn't it? 

Gilda: Not particularly odd. The usual litter of an 
oversentimental mind. 

Otto: Be careful, Gilda. An ugly brawl is imminent. 

Gilda: I'm not afraid. 

Otto: That's brave, when you have so much to lose. 
He glances comprehensively round the room. 

Gilda (quietly) : Is that a threat? 

Otto: We've come back. That should be threat 

Gilda (rising, with a strange smile): There now! 



That's what happens when ghosts get into the house. 
They try to frighten you with their beckoning fingers and 
clanking chains, not knowing that they're dead and 
unable to harm you any more. That's why one should 
never be scared of them, only sorry for them. Poor little 
ghosts! It must be so uncomfortable, wandering 
through empty passages, feeling they're not wanted very 

Leo (to Grace) : You see, Gilda can talk nonsense too. 

Otto (reprovingly): That wasn't nonsense, Leo; that 
was a flight of fancy, tinged with the macabre and reeking 
with allegory — a truly remarkable achievement! 

Leo: It certainly requires a vivid imagination to 
describe this apartment as an empty passage. 

Gilda (laughing a trifle wildly): Stop it, both of you! 
You're behaving abominably! 

Otto: We're all behaving abominably. 

Leo: The veneer is wearing thin. Even yours, Gilda. 

Grace: This, really, is the most extraordinary con- 
versation I've ever heard. 

Otto: Fascinating, though, don't you think? Fas- 
cinating to lift the roofs a fraction and look down into the 

Gilda: Not when the people inside know you're look- 
ing: not when they're acting for you and strutting about 
and showing off! 

Leo: How does it feel to be so secure, Gilda? Tell us 
about it? 

Gilda (ignoring him) : Another drink, Henry? 

Henry: No, thanks. 

Helen (rising) : We really ought to be going now. 

Gilda: Oh, I'm so sorry! 


Leo: Watch the smooth wheels going round! 

Otto: Reach for a Murad! 

Grace (also rising): I'm going, too, Gilda. Can I 
drop anybody? 

Henry : No, thanks, our car's outside. 

Grace: Good-night, Mr. Mercure. 

Leo (shaking hands) : Good-night. 

Grace (shaking hands with Otto) : Good-night. Can I 
drop you anywhere? 

Otto: No, thank you; we're staying a little longer. 

Gilda: No! Go now, Otto, please. Both of you, go 
with Grace. I'm terribly tired; you can telephone me 
first thing in the morning. 

Leo: We want to talk to you. 

Gilda: Tomorrow, you can talk to me tomorrow; we 
can all talk for hours. 

Leo: We want to talk now. 

Gilda: I know you do, but I tell you, I'm tired — 

dreadfully tired. I've had a very hard day 

She winks at them violently. 

Otto (grinning) : Oh, I see. 

Helen (at the door): Come on, Henry! Good-night, 
Gilda darling; it's been a lovely evening. 

She bows to Otto and Leo, and goes out. Grace 
looks at Otto and Leo and Gilda, and then with 
great tact joins Henry at the door. 

Grace (to Otto) : My car's there, if you are coming now. 

Good-night, Gilda — ring for the elevator, Henry 

She goes out with Henry. 

Gilda (hurriedly, in a whisper) : It was awful of you to 
behave like that ! Why couldn't you have waited quietly 
until they'd gone? 



Leo {also in a whisper) : They wouldn't go — they were 
going to stay for ever and ever and ever! 

Gilda runs over to her bag, which is lying on a chair, 
and takes a latchkey out of it. 
Gilda : Go, now, both of you ! Go with Grace. She'll 
gossip all over the town if you don't. Here's the key; 
come back in ten minutes. 
Otto : Intrigue, eh? A nice state of affairs. 
Leo: Good old Decameron! 
Gilda {shoving the key into his hand) : Go on, quickly ! 

Get a taxi straight back 

They both kiss her lightly on the lips and go out. 
Gilda stands still, staring after them until she hears 
the door slam. Her eyes are filled with tears. She 
strides about the room in great agitation, clasping and 
unclasping her hands. She stops in front of a table 
on which is someone's unfinished drink. She drinks it 
thoughtfully, frowning and tapping her foot nervously 
on the ground. 

Suddenly, she bangs down the glass, snatches up her 
cloak and bag, switches of all the lights, and runs out 
through the door leading to the fire escape. 



Scene II 


The scene is the same, and it is the next morning. 

The windows are wide open, and sunlight is stream- 
ing into the room. 

As the curtain rises, Matthew crosses over from the 
servants' quarters, door Left, and goes into the hall. 
Matthew is black but comely. He wears a snow- 
white coat and dark trousers and is very smart indeed. 

Ernest enters from the hall, carrying a suitcase. 

Matthew follows him, staggering under three or 
four large canvases in a wooden crate. 

Ernest: Put them down there for the moment, Mat- 
thew, and get me some coffee. 
Matthew: Yes, sir. 

He rests the canvases against the wall. 
Ernest {taking of his hat and coat) : Is Mrs. Friedman 
Matthew: She hasn't rung yet, sir. 
Ernest: All right. Get me the coffee as quickly as 
you can. 
Matthew: It's all ready, sir. 

He goes of Left. Ernest wanders out onto the ter- 
race and then in again. He picks up a newspaper of 
the table, glances at it and throws it down again. He is 
obviously irritable. Matthew reenters with a break- 
fast tray, which he places on a small table. 



Matthew: Perhaps you'd like to have it out on the 
terrace, sir? 

Ernest: No. This'll do. 

Matthew: Did you have a good trip, sir? 

Ernest (sitting down at the table) : No, I did not. 

Matthew: Very good, sir. 

He goes out. Ernest pours himself some coffee. 
While he is doing so, Otto and Leo come down the 
stairs. They are both wearing Ernest's pyjamas and 
dressing gowns, which are considerably small for them. 
Their feet are bare. 

Leo (as they reach the bottom of the stairs): Good- 
morning, Ernest! 

Ernest (flabbergasted) : God bless my soul! 

Otto (kissing him): He will, Ernest. He couldn't 
fail to! 

Leo (also kissing him) : Dear little Ernest ! 

Ernest: Where — where in heaven's name have you 
come from? 

Otto: Manila. 

Leo (grinning) : It was very hot in Manila. 

Otto: Aren't you pleased to see us? 

Ernest: Have you been staying here? 

Leo: Of course. 

Ernest: Since when? 

Otto: Last night. 

Ernest: Where did you sleep? 

Leo: Upstairs. 

Ernest: What! Where's Gilda? 

Otto: We don't know. She's disappeared. 

Ernest: Disappeared! What on earth do you mean? 

Otto: What I say. She's disappeared. 



Leo: Disappeared! Gone. She fluttered out into the 
night like a silly great owl. 

Otto: We arrived when she was entertaining a few 
smart friends, and she pressed a latchkey into our hands 
and told us to come back later; and when we came back 
later, she wasn't here. So we waited a little while, and 
then we went to bed. 

Leo : We were very tired. 

Ernest: It's fantastic, the whole thing! Ridiculous. 

Leo : Do you think we could have some coffee? 

Ernest: Yes, you can have some coffee, if you want 

He rings a little bell on the table and slams it down 
again irritably. 

Otto: I do hope you're not going to be disagreeable, 
Ernest. After all, you haven't seen us for ages. 

Ernest: Disagreeable! What do you expect me to 
be? I arrive home after twenty hours in the train to find 
Gilda gone, and you both staying in the house uninvited 
and wearing my pyjamas. 

Leo: We'll take them off at once, if you like. 

Ernest: You won't do any such thing! 

Matthew enters and stands stricken with astonish- 
Two more cups, Matthew. 

Matthew: Yes, sir. 
He goes out, staring. 

Ernest: Had you warned Gilda that you were 

Otto: No. We just arrived — it was a surprise. 

Ernest {suddenly) : What do you want? 

Leo: Why do you ask that? 



Ernest: I want to know. Why have you come? 
What do you want? 

Otto : We want Gilda, of course ! 

Ernest: Have you gone out of your mind? 

Leo: Not at all. It's quite natural. WeVe always 
wanted Gilda. 

Ernest: Are you aware that she is my wife? 

Otto (turning away) : Oh, don't be so silly, Ernest! 

Ernest: Silly! How dare you! 

Leo: You're a dear old pet, Ernest, and we're very, 
very fond of you and we know perfectly well that Gilda 
could be married to you fifty times and still not be your 

Matthew comes in with two cups. 

Matthew: Do you want some fresh coffee, sir? 

Ernest (mechanically, staring at them): No — no, 
there's enough here. 

Matthew (to Otto) : Can I get you some grapefruit, 
sir? Or an egg? 

Otto: No, thank you. 

Matthew (to Leo) : For you, sir? 

Leo: No, thank you. 

Ernest: That will do, Matthew. 

Matthew: Yes, sir. 
He goes out. 

Ernest: Do you seriously imagine that you have the 
slightest right to walk into my house like this and demand 
my wife? 

Otto: Do stop saying "my wife" in that complacent 
way, Ernest; it's absurd! 

Leo: We know entirely why you married Gilda; and if 

[i 28] 


we'd both been dead it would have been an exceedingly 
good arrangement. 

Ernest: You are dead, as far as she's concerned. 

Otto: Oh, no, we're not! We're very much alive. 

Leo: I fear your marriage is on the rocks, Ernest. 

Ernest: This is one of the most superb exhibitions of 
brazen impertinence I've ever encountered. 

Otto: It's inconvenient, I do see that. It may quite 
possibly inconvenience you very much. 

Leo: But no more than that; and you know it as well 
as we do. 

Ernest (with admirable control): Aren't you taking 
rather a lot for granted? 

Otto: Only what we know. 

Ernest: I won't lose my temper with you, because 
that would be foolish 

Otto: And ineffective. 

Ernest: But I think you had better put on whatever 
clothes you came in, and go away. You can come back 
later, when you're in a more reasonable frame of mind. 

Leo: We're in a perfectly reasonable frame of mind, 
Ernest. We've never been more reasonable in our lives; 
nor more serenely determined. 

Ernest (with great calmness) : Now look here, you two. 
I married Gilda because she was alone, and because for 
many, many years I have been deeply attached to her. 
We discussed it carefully together from every angle, be- 
fore we decided. I know the whole circumstances 
intimately. I know exactly how much she loved you 
both; and also, I'm afraid, exactly how little you both 
loved her. You practically ruined her life between you, 
and you caused her great unhappiness with your egotisti- 



cal, casual passions. Now you can leave her alone. 
She's worked hard and made a reputation for herself. 
Her life is fully occupied; and she is completely contented. 
Leave her alone! Go away! Go back to Manila or 
wherever you came from — and leave her alone! 

Leo: Admirable, Ernest! Admirable, but not strictly 
accurate. We love her more than anyone else in the 
world and always shall. She caused us just as much un- 
happiness in the past as we ever caused her. And al- 
though she may have worked hard, and although her life 
is so fully occupied, she is far from being contented. We 
saw her last night and we know. 

Otto: She could never be contented without us, be- 
cause she belongs to us just as much as we belong to her. 
Ernest: She ran away from you. 
Leo: She'll come back. 

The front door bell rings. 
Otto: She has come back! 

There is silence while Matthew crosses from the 
servants' door to the hall. 
Leo: Coffee! That's the thing — nice, strong coffee! 

He pours some out for himself. 
Otto {doing the same): Delicious! 
Ernest (rising, and flinging down his napkin) : This is 

Leo: Peculiar and complicated, I grant you, and rather 
exciting, but not insupportable. 

Gilda enters, followed by Matthew, who looks 
utterly bewildered. She is wearing a dark day coat 
and hat over her evening dress, and carrying a brown 
paper parcel that is obviously her evening cloak. Shi 
sees the three of them and smiles. 



Gilda: I might have known it! 

Matthew: Shall I take your parcel, ma'am? 

Gilda: Yes, give it to Nora, Matthew; it's my evening 

Matthew: Yes, ma'am. 

He goes off, Left, with it; while Gilda takes of her 
hat and coat and fluffs out her hair. 

Gilda: I borrowed this coat and hat from the tele- 
phone operator at the Ritz: remind me to return it some 
time this morning, Ernest. 

She comes over and kisses him absently. 
This is all very awkward, isn't it? I am so sorry. The 
very first minute you get home, too. It's a shame ! (To 
Otto and Leo) : Did you stay here all night? 

Leo: Yes, we did. 

Gilda: I wondered if you would. 

Otto: Why did you sneak off like that? 

Gilda (coolly) : I should have thought the reason was 
obvious enough. 

Leo: It was very weak of you. 

Gilda: Not at all. I wanted time to think. Give 
me some coffee, Ernest — no, don't ring for another cup; 
I'll have yours. I couldn't bear to see Matthew's eyes 
popping out at me any more! 

She pours out some coffee and sits down and surveys 
the three of them. 

Gilda (blandly): Now then! 

Leo: Now then indeed! 

Gilda: What's going to happen? 

Otto: Social poise again. Oh, dear! Oh, dear, oh, dear! 

Gilda: You know you both look figures of fun in those 



Ernest: I don't believe IVe ever been so acutely irri- 
tated in my whole life. 

Leo: It is annoying for you, Ernest, I do see that! 
I'm so sorry. 

Otto: Yes, we're both sorry. 

Ernest: I think your arrogance is insufferable. I 
don't know what to say. I don't know what to do. 
I'm very, very angry. Gilda, for heaven's sake, tell 
them to go! 

Gilda : They wouldn't. Not if I told them until I was 
black in the face! 

Leo: Quite right. 

Otto: Not without you, we wouldn't. 

Gilda (smiling) : That's very sweet of you both. 

Leo (looking at her sharply) : What are you up to? 

Otto: Tell us, my little dear, my clever little dear! 
Tell us what you're up to. 

Gilda: What have you been saying to Ernest? 

Leo: Lots of things. 

Ernest: They've been extremely offensive, both of 

Gilda: In what way? 

Ernest: I'd rather not discuss it any further. 

Gilda: I believe you've got a little fatter, Otto. 

Leo: He eats too much rice. 

Gilda: You look very well, though. 

Otto (raising his eyebrows slightly) : Thank you. 

Gilda: So do you, Leo. The line in between your 
eyes is deeper, but you seem very healthy. 

Leo : I am. 

Gilda: You were always very strong, constitutionally. 
Strong as an ox! Do you remember that, Ernest? 



Ernest (irritably): What? 

Gilda (smiling) : Nothing. It doesn't matter. 

Leo : Stop pulling our ears and stroking us, Gilda, and 
tell us your secret. Tell us why you're so strange and 
quiet — tell us what you're up to. 

Gilda: Don't you know? I've given in! 

Leo (quickly): What! 

Gilda (quietly and very distinctly) : I've given in. I've 
thrown my hand in! The game's over. 

Ernest: Gilda! What do you mean? 

Gilda: What I say. 

Ernest : You mean — you can't mean that 

Gilda (gently): I mean I'm going away from you, 
Ernest. Some things are too strong to fight against; I've 
been fighting for two years and it's no use. I'm bored 
with the battle, sick to death of it! So I've given in. 

Ernest : You're — you're insane ! You can't be serious. 

Gilda: I'm not serious! That's what's so dreadful. 
I feel I ought to be but I'm not — my heart f s bobbing up 
and down inside me like a parrot in a cage ! It's shameful, 

I know, but I can't help it (She suddenly turns on 

Otto and Leo): And you two — you two sitting there 
with the light of triumph in your eyes! — Say something, 
can't you! Say something, for God's sake, before I slap 
your smug little faces ! 

Leo : I knew it. I knew it last night ! 

Otto: We both knew it! We laughed ourselves to 

Ernest: Gilda, pull yourself together! Don't be a 
fool — pull yourself together! 

Gilda: Don't get excited, Ernest. It doesn't matter 
to you as much as all that, you know. 



Ernest: You're crazy! You're stark staring mad! 

Gilda {ecstatically): I am, I am! I'm mad with joy! 
I'm mad with relief ! I thought they really had forgotten 
me; that they really were free of me. I thought that 
they were never coming back, that I should never see 
them again; that my heart would be heavy and sick and 
lonely for them until I died! 

Leo: Serve you right for leaving us! Serve you damn 
well right ! 

Gilda: Be quiet! Shut your trap, my darling! I've 
got to explain to Ernest. 

Ernest: I don't want to hear your explanations. I 
don't want to hear any more 

Otto: Try and stop her, that's all! Just try and stop 
her! She's off, she's embarked on a scene. Oh, dear 
love, this is highly delectable! The old girl's on the war 

Gilda: Be quiet, I tell you! Don't crow! Don't be 
so mean. 

Ernest: I don't want to hear any more, I tell you! 

Gilda: You've got to. You must! There's so much 
I have to say. You must listen. In fairness to yourself 
and to all of us, you must listen. 

Ernest: You're being unbelievably vulgar! I'm 
ashamed of you. 

Gilda: I'm ashamed of many things, but not of this! 
This is real. I've made use of you, Ernest, and I'm 
ashamed of that, and I've lied to you. I'm ashamed of 
that, too; but at least I didn't know it: I was too busy 
lying to myself at the same time. I took refuge in your 
gentle, kind friendship, and tried to pretend to myself 
that it was enough, but it wasn't. I've talked and 



laughed and entertained your friends; I've been excellent 
company and very efficient. I've worked hard and 
bought things and sold things, all the time pretending 
that my longing for these two was fading ! But it wasn't. 
They came back last night, looking very sleek and sly in 
their newly pressed suits, and the moment I saw them, I 
knew; I knew it was no good pretending any more. I 
fought against it, honestly I did ! I ran away from them, 
and walked about the streets and sat in Childs weeping 
into glasses of milk. Oh, Ernest, you've understood such 
a lot, understand just this much more, and try to forgive 
me — because I can't possibly live without them, and 
that's that! 

Ernest (with icy calm) : I gather that the fact that I'm 
your husband is not of the faintest importance to you? 

Gilda: It's never been anything more than a com- 
fortable sort of arrangement, has it? 

Ernest: Apparently not as comfortable as I imagined. 

Gilda: Exquisitely comfortable, Ernest, and easy- 
going and very, very nice; but those things don't count in 
a situation like this, you must see that! 

Ernest: I see a ruthless egotism, an utter disregard 
for anyone's feelings but your own. That's all I can see 
at the moment. 

Leo: You should see more, Ernest, you really should. 
The years that you've known us should have taught you 
that it's no use trying to make any one of us toe the line 
for long. 

Ernest: Gilda is different from you two, she always 
has been. 

Gilda: Not different enough. 

Ernest: You let her down utterly. You threw away 



everything she gave you. It was painful to watch her 
writhing in the throes of her own foolish love for you. I 
used to love you both too. You were young and gay, 
and your assurance wasn't set and unbecoming as it is 
now. But I don't love you any more. I'm not even 
fond of you. You set every instinct that I have on 
edge. You offend my taste. When Gilda escaped from 
you I tried to make her happy and contented, quietly, 
without fuss. 

Otto: She could never be happy without fuss. She 
revels in it. 

Ernest: Superficially, perhaps, but not really. Not 
deep down in her heart. 

Leo: What do you know of her heart? 

Gilda: Cruel little cat. 

Otto: Shut up! 

Leo: She's chosen to come back to us. She just said 
so. How do you account for that? 

Ernest: The sight of you has revived her old idiotic 
infatuation for you, but only for a little. It won't last. 
She knows too much now to be taken in by you again. 

Gilda: You're wrong, Ernest. You're wrong. 

Ernest: Your lack of balance verges on insanity. 

Otto : Do you know that was downright rude ! 

Gilda: Why go on talking? Talking isn't any good. 
Look at me, Ernest. Look at me ! Can't you see what's 

Ernest: You're a mad woman again. 

Gilda: Why shouldn't I be a mad woman? I've been 
sane and still for two years. You were deceived by my 
dead behaviour because you wanted to be. It's silly to 
go on saying to yourself that I'm different from Otto 



and Leo just because you want to believe it. I'm not 
different from them. We're all of a piece, the three of us. 
Those early years made us so. From now on we shall 
have to live and die our own way. No one else's way is 
any good, we don't fit. 

Ernest: No, you don't, you don't and you never will. 
Your values are false and distorted. 

Gilda: Only from your point of view. 

Ernest: From the point of view of anyone who has 
the slightest sense of decency. 

Leo: We have our own decencies. We have our 
own ethics. Our lives are a different shape from yours. 
Wave us good-bye, Little Ernest, we're together again. 

Gilda: Ernest, Ernest, be friendly. It can't hurt you 

Ernest: Not any more. I've wasted too much 
friendship on all of you, you're not worth it. 

Otto: There's a lot of vanity in your anger, Ernest, 
which isn't really worthy of your intelligence. 

Ernest {turning on him) : Don't speak to me, please ! 

Leo: Otto's perfectly right. This behaviour isn't 
worthy of your intelligence. If you were twisted up in- 
side and really unhappy it would be different; but you're 
not, you're no more than offended and resentful that 
your smooth habits should be tampered with 

Ernest (losing control): Hold your tongue! — I've had 
too much of your effrontery already! 

Gilda (peaceably) : Once and for all, Ernest, don't be 
bitter and so dreadfully outraged! Please, please calm 
down and you'll find it much easier to understand. 

Ernest: You overrate my capacity for understanding! 
I don't understand; the whole situation is revolting to me. 



I never shall understand; I never could understand this 
disgusting three-sided erotic hotch-potch ! 

Gilda: Ernest! 

Leo: Why, good heavens! King Solomon had a 
hundred wives and was thought very highly of. I can't 
see why Gilda shouldn't be allowed a couple of gentlemen 

Ernest (furiously) : Your ill-timed flippancy is only in 
keeping with the rest of your execrable taste! 

Otto: Certain emotions transcend even taste, Ernest. 
Take anger, for example. Look what anger's doing to 
you! You're blowing yourself out like a frog! 

Ernest (beside himself): Be quiet! Be quiet! 

Leo (violently): Why should we be quiet! You're 
making enough row to blast the roof off ! Why should you 
have the monopoly of noise? Why should your pompous 
moral pretensions be allowed to hurtle across the city 
without any competition? We've all got lungs; let's use 
them! Let's shriek like mad! Let's enjoy ourselves! 

Gilda (beginning to laugh): Stop it, Leo! I implore 
you! — This is ludicrous! Stop it — stop it 

Ernest (in a frenzy): It is ludicrous! It's ludicrous 
to think that I was ever taken in by any of you — that I 
ever mistook you for anything but the unscrupulous, 
worthless degenerates that you are ! There isn't a decent 
instinct among the lot of you. You're shifty and irre- 
sponsible and abominable, and I don't wish to set eyes on 
you again — as long as I live! Never! Do you hear me? 
Never — never — never ! 

He stamps out of the room, quite beside himself with 
fury; on his way into the hall he falls over the package of 

1 &] 


This is too much for Gilda and Otto and Leo; they 
break down utterly and roar with laughter. They groan 
and weep with laughter; their laughter is still echoing 
from the walls as — 

the curtain falls 


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